Factors Contributing to Obesity among Latinos Children
Childhood obesity: A growing problem
Pediatric nutritionists and other experts in childhood obesity have seen a huge increase in the number of patients attending the clinic in recent years. The percentage of overweight children, who were more the exception than the norm, has dramatically increased.
The problem of childhood obesity is affecting the entire population in the United States and other countries. The root causes are the excess calories consumed and the lack of exercise. However, childhood obesity is affecting Latino children disproportionately, and this is explained by some factors that concern us particularly.
Learn how you can tell if your child is obese
That a child has a few pounds or kilos of more has not usually been a reason for alarm in the Latino culture. Rather the opposite. If it is a baby, the fact that it is chubby is usually a cause of pride for the mother. And if it’s a young child, the general belief is that as it grows, those extra kilos will disappear.
It was true to some extent in past generations when children grew up exercising on the street and practicing sports. Also, the excess of sugar and fats in the daily diet consumed now is not consumed. But today many children have a more sedentary life and a less healthy diet.
This perception of obesity in our culture has been proven even in a psychological study where parents were asked to evaluate whether their children were too heavy or not. More than half of Latino dads and moms said their children had an average weight when in fact they had an excess weight.
When an excessive weight is considered something normal ″ the parents do not take the necessary measures to correct the problem. Unfortunately, it is shown that obesity starts in childhood and the more it takes to correct it, the more difficult it is to control it.
Excess calories and lack of exercise are undoubtedly two of the key factors in the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. But in the case of Latinos, there are also other factors to consider.
Experts believe that genes play a very important role in the predisposition to obesity. Genes are inherited from our parents and determine many things, among others, how we react to excess calories. In other words, the tendency to obesity is hereditary.
Adult obesity has grown dramatically. In the last two decades, there has been an increase in adult obesity of 25 percent, and Hispanic women are the ones with the highest rate of obesity in the United States, after African-American women. It is considered that more than 76 percent of Latinas are overweight, and 45 percent of them are obese. (in comparison, 33 percent of white women are obese.)
Having a parent or mother overweight (or both) will influence whether the child is overweight or not. Also, there are more and more studies that indicate that there is a direct relationship between the weight of the mother during pregnancy and the weight that the child will have afterward.
An added factor is the trend of gestational diabetes among Latina women. Latina women have diabetes during pregnancy more often than women in other ethnic groups, except Asian women. This disorder has a significant influence on the child’s future weight.
For all these reasons, many Latino children have a genetic predisposition to gain excessive weight. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) conducted in 2007-2008, Mexican-American males are the most obese among all racial groups and Mexican-American girls, the second most obese.
If this is combined with an excess of calories and lack of exercise, the result is the obesity epidemic in the Latino children we see today.
However, it is important to bear in mind that, even if there are hereditary factors, it is possible to have an adequate weight. It is not necessary to abandon oneself to fatalism and to think that as one has it in the genes, there is nothing to do.
A healthy diet and exercise can tilt the scales to the other side, normalizing the results of laboratory tests and reducing the risk of acquiring diseases associated with obesity or delaying their appearance.
There is another added factor that does not make things easy and is the lack of medical coverage that many Latino families face. Not having medical coverage means not visiting the doctor on a regular basis. When there is a pediatrician who regularly monitors the child, it can indicate that the weight is rising and the time has come to begin to implement some measures to control it. Read about the low-priced Health Care Act in the United States.
On the other hand Latino families, as well as millions of families in the United States, work, and work hard. After a long day at work, it is difficult to get home and cook a healthy meal, or worse, to fight with the children to eat those vegetables or that healthy food.
The result is that it is very common for dinner to be composed of pre-cooked and fast food to prepare or fast food to take away. These foods usually have a fat, sugar, salt and calories content much higher than fresh vegetables. They also almost always contain condoms whose long-term effect is unknown.
The busy schedule parents have today also makes it difficult to take children to after-school programs where they exercise.
One more thing to include is the hour’s children spend in front of the television or video games. On the one hand, the time they spend sitting is the time they are not exercising, and on the other, eating all kinds of snacks when they are in front of the screen is common. Finally, children’s programs are loaded with food ads. If the television is likewise in the child room, the influence is even more negative.
Keeping in mind all these factors is the first step for defeating them. Eating healthily and exercising is essential for your children to counteract the sedentary lifestyle that we have today.