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October 30, 2009

Rx for Health: Haunting facts about the obesity epidemic

Here is a spooky thought: The obesity rate for children in the U.S. has tripled in some cases.

With Halloween upon us, we must consider the impact that unhealthy eating habits and lack of activity have on our children. It is more important than ever to increase awareness about the potential health risks associated with obesity, which are only exacerbated by Halloween.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1976 to 2006, the childhood obesity rate increased from 5 to 12.4 percent in children ages 2 to 5. In children ages 6 to 11, the rate has risen from 6.5 to 17 percent, and in ages 12 to 19, the rate has shot from 5 to 17.6 percent.

The CDC reports that kids who are obese are likely to remain so as they age. As children develop into adults, significant changes to eating habits become less likely, giving rise to the astounding 67 percent of adults ages 20 and up who are obese or overweight.

An important way to prevent the future adult population from becoming obese is to educate youth about the health risks directly connected with weight problems. Obesity can have detrimental effects on the emotional, social and physical health of a child.

Lack of activity combined with poor food choices fuel the obesity problem. Since healthy eating is the first and most important step in combating the epidemic, adults must help children make proper food choices. Did you know a single package of some of the most popular Halloween treats can contain up to 232 calories, 21 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat? This Halloween, instead of passing out candy, consider giving children a snack that is more beneficial to their health, such as apples or lower-calorie fruit snacks. Parents can also limit the number of homes their children visit while trick-or-treating.

We have also become a society highly dependent on technology, but technology can inhibit the physical activity of our children as well. Children have become so fascinated with spending prolonged periods of time sitting in front of a television, video game console or computer that physical activity becomes a minimal part of their daily lives.

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