The Dangers of Adolescent Obesity. What Can We Do About It?

weight-scaleThere’s little doubt that adolescent obesity is on the rise. Around 25 percent of all adolescents are now considered to be overweight or obese. The results of this epidemic of adolescent obesity are a variety of health and psychosocial problems. Not only does adolescent obesity increase the risk of medical problems, it also predisposes the adolescent to obesity as an adult.

What are some of the medical problems associated with adolescent obesity? Obesity in the adolescent predisposes the child to hypertension, diabetes, gall bladder disease, as well as various orthopedic problems relating to the burden of carrying around excess weight. If the adolescent remains obese, these risks are carried into adulthood where obesity is known to increase the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease.

Medical issues are not the only cause for concern. Adolescent obesity brings with it a host of psychological problems relating to low self-esteem. Obese adolescents have a higher rate of depression and are more prone to developing eating disorders. Adolescents often experience problems with social interaction due to rejection by their peers which can further exacerbate the cycle of depression and low self-esteem.

How can the concerned parent address the issues of adolescent obesity? The first step may be a thorough evaluation by a pediatrician or family doctor who specializes in the treatment of adolescent weight problems. An exam and blood tests should be undertaken to rule out underlying medical problems which may be contributing to the inability to lose weight, such as hypothyroidism. This may be followed by consultation with a nutritionist to optimize the obese adolescent’s diet to promote weight loss. Emphasis should be placed on addressing bad dietary habits such as the frequent intake of soft drinks and eating meals on an irregular basis.  If various psychological issues are interfering with the child’s ability to lose weight, psychological counseling may be recommended.

It will be important to encourage physical activity to promote weight loss. This can be done by helping the obese adolescent become involved in sports or other activities that promote movement. The overweight child should also be encouraged to limit television time and time spent at the computer in favor of more vigorous activities. These lifestyle changes may have a significant impact on adolescent obesity and can help to build the child’s self-esteem. With a bit of encouragement and a weight loss plan, the obese adolescent can shed excess pounds and reduce his or her risk of future medical and psychosocial complications.

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