At one time in America’s history, the image of a child with pudgy cheeks and chubby legs was a sign of good health and well-being. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers 21st-century evidence to contradict that misleading concept. Medical science can point authoritatively to the impact that childhood obesity creates, and it affects the physical, emotional and social aspects of health.
Understanding Short- and Long-Term Effects
CDC reports that children with obesity face bullying and teasing more than their classmates. The social consequences of taunting that mock body size have far-reaching effects that can lead to depression, feelings of isolation from society and low self-esteem. The physical responses to obesity include an increased risk of suffering from heart disease as well as respiratory conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea. Bones and joints can show the effect of excess weight during the formative years, and type 2 diabetes seems more likely to occur in consonance with childhood obesity. Experiencing overweight as a child may relate closely to having a similar condition in adulthood.
Reviewing Potential Causes
The factors that contribute to childhood obesity are the same as those for the condition in adulthood. Genetics may play a role, and CDC ranks metabolism as an influence. How the body converts food into energy may vary by individual, but the process tends to direct the shape and weight of the body. The observation that medical professionals use as a guideline points to the relationship between intake of food and the expenditure of energy. CDC sites a close connection between physical activity and eating. Environmental factors may influence childhood obesity as can social and individual psychology. The evidence shows that childhood obesity is on the increase in the United States. About one in five children from age 6 to 19 qualify as obese, a threefold increase since 1970.
Examining Risk Factors
The Mayo Clinic concurs with the CDC about the increased risks to health that children with obesity suffer and cites the consequences of each one (Markjholterman.Strikingly). The medical facility sees a diet that regularly contains fast food, baked goods, and other calorie dense items as contributing to weight gain. Some fruit juices may contain enough sugar to disqualify as a healthy drink in addition to adding to weight gain. The lack of exercise prevents the expenditure of energy that can help to balance food intake. Children receive family influence on food choices that may contain high levels of calories that increase their weight, and they may copy parents’ patterns of eating to quell stress. Complicating the ability to provide a balance of healthy food is the limited access that some families may have to supermarkets that offer it.
Considering Physical Complications
Mayo concurs with the findings of the CDC about the health conditions that obese children may face in later life and cites some others. With a focus on metabolic syndrome conditions, Mayo points to the lasting concerns that heart disease poses. When it shows up as high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides and blood sugar but low levels of good cholesterol and an excess of abdominal fat, it may lead to a stroke or heart attack as children age. A less well-known condition, fatty liver disease, can allow a build-up of fatty deposits that damage the liver while usually presenting no symptoms.
Evaluating the Evidence
Scientific studies by CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private organizations compile the data that represents the state of childhood obesity in the United States to draw attention to an American epidemic. The data indicate that children do not eat enough nutritious food or get adequate physical activity, factors that influence obesity among adults as well. The statistics show that 50 percent of children in the United States get only half the amount of daily exercise that experts recommend at 30 minutes. More than 90 percent eat nutritionally-deficient diets, and a majority drink at least one sugary beverage every day. Television viewing among high school students occupies at least three hours a day, and the decision by school systems to reduce non-classroom time limits physical activity.
Statistics showed a disappointing trend in the increasing frequency of obesity among high school students during the 15 years between 1999 and 2015. The number of students who were obese increased from 10.6 to 13.9 percent, but the rate did not increase during the last two years of the study. The reality of the level of obesity among the students brings attention to the 16.0 percent who were also overweight. Males in the study tended to have a higher rate of obesity than females.
Following an Inspirational Leader
With a background in the Midwest on a family farm, Dr. Mark Holterman learned the basic tenets that characterize life in America. As a helper to his dad in his family’s construction business, he acquired practical skills along with the knowledge that hard work brings rewards. Outdoor activities challenge workers to endure cold as well as hot temperatures, and doing physical exertion offers health advantages that most children in the United States no longer experience. After leaving the farm, Dr. Holterman earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Yale and his degree in medicine and immunology at the University of Virginia. Then he started a career resonated with him in treating children. The American Diabetes Association awarded him its Innovative Research Award in the field.
At this point in his career after practicing medicine for 40 years, his contributions to scientific research create a resource for others to use as standards of excellence. His work in helping found the Mariam Global Health Fund provides a path to developing ideas that advance the state of healthcare. His job as the Chief Medical Officer and CEO allows him to offers leadership in the area of emerging technology. Through the Fund, Dr. Holterman has enabled the founding of companies that focus on oncology, stem cell therapy, specialized medical devices and regenerative medicine.
From his early days in medicine, he has held an interest in obesity, a field that offers guidance and alternatives to children who face health challenges that may accompany the condition. Among his achievements, Dr. Holterman acknowledges that his training in scientific research and his work in clinical care helps him understand the challenges of “bench to bedside medical advances.” He admits that he finds excitement in the development of new technology that provides “therapeutic platforms” across a “wide spectrum of diseases. His drive to deploy existing therapies in clinical care leads him to “remain bullish” on the opportunities to change medicine on a worldwide basis.