A: There are many causes of obesity. Generally, genetic factors, lifestyle habits, or a combination of both may be involved. Lifestyle habits include eating choices, sedentary lifestyles, an increase of time in front of the TV and computer, and a decrease in physical education programs at public schools. A more detailed explanation of some of the causes of obesity can be found at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/overweight_obesity.html
Q: What is the percentage of overweight children in the United States?
A: Results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are overweight.
Q: What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?
A: Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI ranges for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages.
Q: How does being overweight or obese affect a person’s health?
A: When people are or overweight or obese, they are more likely to develop health problems such as the following:
*Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
*Type 2 diabetes
*Coronary heart disease
*Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
*Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
*The more overweight a person is, the more likely that person is to have health problems. *Among people who are overweight and obese, weight loss can help reduce the chances of developing these health problems. Studies show that if a person is overweight or obese, reducing body weight by 5 percent to 10 percent can improve one’s health.
Q: What are the costs associated with overweight and obesity?
A: According to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, the cost of obesity in the United States in 2000 was more than $117 billion ($61 billion direct and $56 billion indirect).
Q: What are some suggestions for losing weight?
A: Most experts recommend that someone attempting to lose a large amount of weight consult with a personal physician or health care professional before beginning a weight-loss program. The Surgeon General’s Healthy Weight Advice for Consumers makes the following general recommendations:
Aim for a healthy weight. People who need to lose weight should do so gradually, at a rate of one-half to two pounds per week.
Be active. The safest and most effective way to lose weight is to reduce calories and increase physical activity.
Eat well. Select sensible portion sizes and follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Q: How can physical activity help prevent overweight and obesity?
A: Physical activity, along with a healthy diet, plays an important role in the prevention of overweight and obesity (USDHHS, 2001). In order to maintain a stable weight, a person needs to expend the same amount of calories as he or she consumes.
Although the body burns calories for everyday functions such as breathing, digestion, and routine daily activities, many people consume more calories than they need for these functions each day. A good way to burn off extra calories and prevent weight gain is to engage in regular physical activity beyond routine activities.
Q: What is being done by CDC to address the problem of overweight and obesity?
A: CDC and its partners work in a variety of ways to prevent and control obesity. A few examples of these efforts include:
*CDC funds a number of programs in state health departments, communities, and schools. For example, CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity funds state health department programs to help develop and carry out targeted nutrition and physical activity interventions to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases. CDC also provides consultation, technical assistance, and training to use programs.
*CDC funds other programs which have physical activity, nutrition, and obesity components, such as STEPS to a HealthierUS and Coordinated School Health Programs.
*CDC monitors weight status or related behaviors, such as diet and physical activity. These efforts include the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS), and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).
*CDC funds and conducts research on the individual and environmental factors that determine weight status and related health effects, on strategies and interventions to change weight or weight-related behaviors, and on the economic impact of overweight and obesity.
*CDC provides growth charts that are used to identify weight problems among young people and provides training on the use of those charts.
Q: What About Medications and Special Diets?
A: When used as part of a comprehensive program including diet and nutrition changes, exercise, and lifestyle modification, prescription anti-obesity medications can be a useful adjunct to a medical weight loss program. Medication alone will not lead to successful weight loss and maintenance. Many of the appetite suppressants and other medications available today have a long history of safe and successful use. New medications are being researched and become available after clinical testing and Food and Drug Administration approval.
Q: What can be done to increase activity as a family?
A: As parents, be an example of fitting physical activities into your day. Do fun, active things together as a family. Limit time in front of the TV and computer screen. Encourage fun physical activities, rather than forcing exercise which may seem like a punishment. Start small and start now!