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Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20 percent or more over an individual's ideal body weight. Obesity is associated with increased risk of illness, disability, and death.
The branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of obesity is known as bariatrics. As obesity has become a major health problem in the United States, bariatrics has become a separate medical and surgical specialty.
Childhood obesity is in the early 2000s a significant health problem in the United States. Obese children and adolescents are at increased risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, and psychosocial disorders.
Obesity involves excessive weight gain and fat accumulation. For children and adolescents, obesity is defined in terms of body mass index (BMI) percentile. BMI is a formula that considers an individual's height and weight to determine body fat and health risk, and it is used differently for children and adolescents than it is for adults. In adults, BMI often misrepresents obesity because it does not consider healthy weight from muscle tissue; therefore, body fat percentage is considered a more accurate method for determining obesity in adults. In children and adolescents, because body fat changes as they mature, BMI is gender- and age-specific and plotted on gender-specific growth charts to determine BMI-forage. Curved lines on the chart (percentiles) are used by healthcare professionals to identify children and adolescents at risk for overweight and obesity. Children and adolescents with a BMI-for-age in the 85th to 95th percentile are considered overweight and at risk for obesity, and those with a BMI-for-age greater than the 95th percentile are considered obese.
According to the American Obesity Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 percent of children aged six to 11 years are overweight and 15.3 percent are obese, and 30.4 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years are overweight and 15.5 percent are obese. From 1980 to 2004, the prevalence of obesity among children quadrupled, and the prevalence of obesity in adolescents more than doubled. Overweight and obesity is more prevalent in boys (32.7%) than girls (27.8%). Obesity is more common in African American, Hispanic American, and Native American children and adolescents, than among Caucasians of the same ages.
Author Info: Jennifer E. Sisk MA, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006
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