At what point do we take a good, long look at ourselves as a society and say “enough?” Are we going to wait until all our children are overweight or obese before we realize that we have a serious problem on our hands? Parents around the world are overfeeding their children and not ensuring that they get enough physical activity, with devastating results. When young kids are being forced to undergo a surgery that has always been reserved for the elderly, just because those children are carrying around dozens of extra pounds, it’s time to call timeout and make some drastic changes.
We see it all around us, but sometimes familiarity dulls our senses. The reality is, children in our society are dangerously overweight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that childhood obesity figures have more than tripled since the 1970s, with around 20 percent of children now labeled as obese – not overweight, mind, obese.
The situation is much the same in the United Kingdom, and the Daily Mail recently reported that children are now so overweight that more and more kids are having to undergo hip replacement surgery.
Five children under the age of 19 had to undergo this type of surgery last year. Admittedly, five is not a large number, but it is disturbing because it is rising steadily each year. (Related: Childhood obesity is a gateway to many other chronic diseases.)
In the U.K., over 40 percent of all children under 19 are considered overweight, and frantic experts are calling the situation an “absolute crisis” and “truly saddening.”
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The Mail explained that obese children, whose weight places an additional burden on their growing bodies, are at elevated risk of developing a condition called slipped capital femoral epiphysis, or SCFE. The condition generally requires a surgical procedure to insert a screw to stabilize the hip, and if that initial surgery is unsuccessful – as it often is – the child will have to undergo further surgery to have a full hip replacement.
Tam Fry, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told the Mail that around 500 British adolescents suffer from SCFE at any given time, most of whom are either overweight or obese.
And Fry believes that unless parents and their kids start making drastic changes, the number is sure to rise in coming years.
Daniel Perry, a consultant orthopedic surgeon at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, told the Mail, “We must urgently focus our effort on stopping children getting fat in the first place. Though we can’t yet be sure that the obesity directly causes this [SCFE], obesity is the primary risk factor.” [Emphasis added]
Though the subject of children being overweight is an especially sensitive one, the truth is that the responsibility for this epidemic rests firmly with the parents. (Related: Discover the amazing health benefits of “real” food at Fresh.news.)
“The evidence shows that children are being fed more than they require,” said Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England. “They are having a few more calories every day than they need. It builds up over time. Children are living in households with parents who have an obesity problem themselves, so there are ingrained obesity habits.
“People tend to underestimate the amount of calories they are eating, and I suspect they underestimate how much their children are eating as well,” she added.
Dr. Tedstone makes a good point: Our children are sure to imitate our behavior if they see us overeating and not being physically active enough ourselves. After all, children always imitate what they see. That is also really good news, though, because it means that if each one of us starts making better nutrition choices and we start being more active as families we can very quickly turn the situation around. It’s tough, but it’s not impossible – and we owe it to our kids.