Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Childhood Overweight and Obesity - A Growing Problem (II)

Limited access to healthy affordable foods. Some people have less access to stores and supermarkets that sell healthy, affordable food such as fruits and vegetables, especially in rural, minority, and lower-income neighborhoods. Supermarket access is associated with a reduced risk for obesity. Choosing healthy foods is difficult for parents who live in areas with an overabundance of food retailers that tend to sell less healthy food, such as convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

Greater availability of high-energy-dense foods and sugar drinks. High-energy-dense foods are ones that have a lot of calories in each bite. A recent study among children showed that a high-energy-dense diet is associated with a higher risk for excess body fat during childhood. Sugar drinks are the largest source of added sugar and an important contributor of calories in the diets of children in the United States. High consumption of sugar drinks, which have few, if any, nutrients, has been associated with obesity.13 On a typical day, 80% of youth drink sugar drinks.

Increasing portion sizes. Portion sizes of less healthy foods and beverages have increased over time in restaurants, grocery stores, and vending machines. Research shows that children eat more without realizing it if they are served larger portions. This can mean they are consuming a lot of extra calories, especially when eating high-calorie foods.

Lack of breastfeeding support. Breastfeeding protects against childhood overweight and obesity. However, in the United States, while 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of 6 months. The success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be improved through active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers, and policymakers.

Television and media. Children 8—18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including TV, computers, video games, cell phones, and movies. Of those  7.5 hours, about 4.5 hours is dedicated to viewing TV.19 Eighty-three percent of children from 6 months to less than 6 years of age view TV or videos about 1 hour and 57 minutes a day.20  TV viewing is a contributing factor to childhood obesity because it may take away from the time children spend in physical activities; lead to increased energy intake through snacking and eating meals in front of the TV; and, influence children to make unhealthy food choices through exposure to food advertisements.

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Childhood Overweight and Obesity - A Growing Problem (II)

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