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I am not going to lie, I have struggled with excess weight my entire life. It is not a pretty picture. Your worst nightmare is when you have to weigh in at school or at the doctor’s office. Boy, is that an embarrassment. Your whole mindset shrinks down to the size of a pea. The child obesity crisis is real. Let’s turn the tables on this situation. Let’s find out the facts.
How Serious is the Obesity Crisis?
Unfortunately, as of 2022, the obesity crisis has grown exponentially. In fact, it is now a major public health issue. Medical experts tout that it is more serious than the opioid epidemic. In less than 20 years, the prevalence has increased by approximately 40%. Severe obesity has doubled. What is behind the child obesity crisis?
What are the Underlying Causes of Child Obesity?
I’ll tell you what the causes of excessive weight are. For starters, these are not caused by one thing. There are multiple reasons for obesity. Genes, environment, over-eating and lack of exercise are a few of these reasons. On the other hand, some people are born with a chronic disease such as Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. Do you have a minute? Let’s take at look at some of the underlying symptoms of obesity.
Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS)
In 1920 and 1922, respectively, doctors Bardet and Biedl, respectively, discovered a gene mutation. This mutation causes a genetic disorder that can lead to other chronic diseases in children.
BBS is a genetic disorder with obesity as one of its major features. It is best known to cause disturbances in the appetite-regulating hormones.
Children with BBS Benefit from Therapy
Bardet-Biedl Syndrome is an inherited condition that affects many parts of the body. Children with this condition have progressive visual impairment, extra fingers and toes, truncal obesity, and learning difficulties. There is currently no cure for it. However, children with BBS benefit from therapies such as physical therapy, occupational, speech and vision services.
It also affects males and females in equal number. Insatiable hunger is another side effect. Caloric restriction is necessary. Bardet-Biedl Syndrome is frequently found in North America and Europe. BBS has a prevalence of 1 to 140,000 to 1 to 160,000.
Genes and Environment
Many children are predisposed to carry extra weight. Moreover, their genetics play a major role in their body type. However, environment has a big influence on how much we weigh. If you don’t participate in regular exercise and consume excessive calories, you cannot expect to be thin. Consuming too many calories equates to weight gain. But it all depends on your genes.
Genetic Makeup and Genotype
Some people are extremely lucky. They can eat a bag of Lays potato chips and a bucket of ice cream without gaining a pound. Others can’t. The balance of calories stored and burned depends on your genetic makeup. It also depends on your genotype.
A person’s genotype is their unique sequence of DNA. However, Phenotype helps determine the genotype. While the genotype is inherited from the parents, the phenotype is not. Let’s break it down.
First of all, a gene is defined as a section of DNA that encodes a certain trait. An allele is a special form of a gene. An allele determines a person’s genotype. Each person inherits at least two alleles of a gene from each parent.
Whether you have brown or blue eyes, depends on alleles that are passed down from parents. They play a big role in determining your inherited traits. Half of your DNA comes from your mother; and the other half comes from your father. Are you following me? It may seem complicated. In addition, we all have a FTO genotype.
What is the FTO Genotype (rs9939609)?
So far, we talked about genetic makeup, alleles and genotypes. Let’s go a little deeper into discussion about the FTO Genotype. Studies suggest that if you have the FTO genotype you are susceptible to obesity. In fact, anyone who carries the FTO gene is 70% more likely to be obese.
You Have the FTO “Fat Gene” if:
- You have a strong tendency to overeat
- Extreme cravings for Carbohydrates
- Easy weight gain tendencies
- High risks for obesity
The FDA has Approved Treatment for Obesity
The FTO gene is less prevalent in Asian (30% and African populations (12%), than in European populations (42%). The good news is that the FDA has approved treatment to significantly reduce measures of weight and hunger in people with BBS. This medication is called IMCIVREE. It is a once daily treatment if you carry the FTO gene.
How to Manage Obesity
The onus of the obesity epidemic should also be part and parcel on the backs of the Food Industry. Check the center aisles of your major grocery stores. You will see aisles and aisles of shelves stocked with processed, high-caloric, low nutritional foods. These unhealthy products are targeted to children. Unfortunately, looks like the obesity plague is not going to end no time soon unless we get a change of heart.
There are a few things we CAN do in the defense of the child obesity crisis. We can:
- Eat green leafy vegetables, fruits (low-grade inflammation foods)
- Berries, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), avocados, tomatoes
- Get physical exercise (walking, swimming, gardening)
- Join a weight management group
- Adequate amounts of sleep (8 hours)
- Control appetite
- Conquer stress
- Stop Smoking (obese adults)
- Limit alcohol (obese adults)
Child Obesity is Not Lightening Up
Although we tend to take for granted the fact that we can eat anything, anywhere at any time we want, we forget one thing – there are consequences. While McDonald’s and Burger King’s bank accounts are getting bigger and bigger, so are our waistlines, in particular, our children’s waistlines. The child obesity crisis is taking the world by storm. Seems like the epidemic is rampant.
Final Take Home Thoughts
As a result, this crisis is costing the public healthcare system a fortune. However, obesity is preventable. We have the power to reverse this epidemic, starting with a healthier diet. Let’s do our part to end this disease. You can start by leading by example. Healthy adults produce healthy children. They are our prized possessions. They are the future. If you don’t have children, pay it forward anyway. Do it for the next generation. I beg of you.
I know this topic is intense. Yet, this story has to be told. We are losing our children to diseases that were once experienced by their grandparents and great-grandparents. Children are being diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Why. Children have no one to teach them the skills of good health. Don’t let our children down. Give them the nourishment they richly deserve. Healthier children, healthier futures and they will grow up to happy, healthy adults. I rest my case.
Do you enjoy health and lifestyle topics? If so, get in touch with me so we can have deep conversations about similar topics. I’m always here for you. Feel free to leave your comments and concerns below. Let’s talk.