Obesity Is An Epidemic -
Among Children, Too

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obesity is a major epidemic in the United States, not just among adults but among children too, doctors and nutritionists told a conference Monday.
With more than half the adult population overweight, and nearly a third clinically obese, as many as 300,000 people a year are dying simply because they are too fat, they said. ``This is a major public health hazard, a crisis of epic proportions,'' Gordon Jensen, director of clinical nutrition at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine in Tennessee, said in a statement ahead of the American Dietetic Association's annual meeting. He said older people are becoming obese at frightening rates and it is affecting their lifestyles. ``We have new, quite striking data on relationships between functional limitations and increasing body mass among older women,'' Jensen said.
Researchers are especially worried about children, with recent surveys indicating that as many as 20 percent of American children are obese. Kathleen Rourke of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Cincinnati told the meeting she has been experimenting with a ``team'' approach to helping teenage girls lose weight safely. Her teams include parents, teachers and health workers, she told the meeting, being held in Kansas City. Teenagers may just try to starve themselves thin, she said, but that does not work and can damage their health.
``For successful weight loss among young girls, parents' assistance and a team approach are vital,'' she said in the statement. ``Young girls don't see themselves vulnerable to osteoporosis, but if they haven't had effective bone optimization by their teen years they can run into deficiences all their lives.'' An unbalanced diet, lacking in fresh vegetables, for instance, can be low in calcium and other vitamins and minerals key to bone and tissue development.
Being overweight or obese can lead directly to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing as little as 10 pounds can help. Overweight is defined by international standards as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25. People with a BMI of 30 are considered obese. BMI is calculated by dividing height in meters squared by weight in kilograms.
For example, someone who is 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and weighs 155 pounds (70 kg) has a BMI of 23 -- considered normal and healthy. At 169 pounds (76 kg) such a person would have a BMI of 25 and is overweight.