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Preventing Obesity in Children and Teens

Facts about prevention

Obesity is a chronic disease affecting increasing numbers of children and teens. Obesity rates among children in the U.S. have doubled since 1980 and have tripled for adolescents. About 17 percent of children aged 2 to 19 are considered overweight compared to over 66 percent of adults who are considered overweight or obese.

Earlier onset of type 2 diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease, and obesity-related depression in children and teens is being seen more frequently by health care professionals. The longer a person is obese, the more significant obesity-related risk factors become. Given the chronic diseases and conditions associated with obesity and the fact that obesity is difficult to treat, prevention is extremely important.

A primary reason that prevention of obesity is so vital in children is because the likelihood of childhood obesity persisting into adulthood is thought to increase as the child ages.

Infants

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight. The CDC also reports that the longer babies are breastfed, the less likely they are to become overweight as they grow older. However, may formula-fed babies grow up to be adults of healthy weight. If your child was not breastfed, it does not mean that he or she cannot achieve a healthy weight.

Children and adolescents

Young people generally become overweight or obese because of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Genetics and lifestyle also contribute to a child's weight status.

Recommendations for prevention of overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescence include:

Adults

Many of the strategies that produce successful weight loss and maintenance help prevent obesity. Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity. Recommendations for adults include: