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(Please welcome Laura with some startling conclusions about childhood obesity. Thanks, Laura!)

By now, we all know that obesity is causing health problems left and right for children and adults alike. But a recent study revealed that in addition to the obvious health implications, obesity is also causing peer problems with children.

Over 3,300 children in Australia were studied over a four year time span, beginning in pre-school and continuing through early grade school. The study began in 2004 by taking height and weight measurements in children ages 4 and 5. In addition to the measurements, parents and teachers answered questionnaires and caregivers were interviewed. The research showed that 5% of children were obese, 13% of boys were overweight, and 16% of girls were overweight.

By 2008, children who were overweight at the beginning of the study were 20% more likely to have problems with forming friendships with their peers than children who were not classified as overweight.

“My advice to parents would be to work hard to help their children achieve the best quality nutrition standards, participate in activities which have the potential to improve fitness levels, and to seek out activities in the community where children’s peer relationships can be fostered and supported,” Michael Sawyer, MBBS, PhD, professor and head of the Research and Evaluation Unit at the University of Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Australia, stated in an email to WebMD.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, at least one in five children is overweight. It has become such a big issue that President Barack Obama has deemed September “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”. So why is obesity taking the forefront when it comes to issues that are both treatable and preventable?

“The enhanced marketing of cheap, fast, calorically dense food loaded with fat and carbohydrates is really the leading cause of childhood obesity,” explained Dr. Peter Vash, who is the executive medical director of the Southern California-based Lindora weight loss program.

We have become all too reliant on fast foods, which are loaded with excess sodium, saturated fat, and huge portion sizes and we are conditioned to order sodas with our meals, which are a vat of empty calories. And if that weren’t enough, we aren’t moving nearly enough, opting to spend our time sitting in front of TVs and computers. This translates to our children, showing them that it’s ok to spend hours playing video games or watching TV shows rather than playing outside.

Parents have the power to influence their children positively, especially in regards to health and fitness. It can be anything from taking a walk or bike ride for 30 minutes a day with the whole family, sending your kid(s) to school with a well-balanced homemade lunch, or sitting down to a healthy family meal at dinnertime. Every step in the right direction will help to lower the risk of obesity in our nation’s children, helping them both physically and psychologically. It’s up to us to set the example.

Laura Backes enjoys writing about all kinds of subjects and also topics related to internet service in my area. You can reach her at: laurabackes8 @ gmail.com.

Earnest Parenting: advice for parents who want their children to be healthy and happy.

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