Why Is Obesity So Prevalent, and What Can We Do to Combat It?

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2009, no state had met a target of reducing obesity prevalence among adults to 15 percent. Why is obesity so prevalent in America? And what can we do to combat the problem? Quattrin, who is leading a more than $2.5 million study to test an innovative program for preventing and treating obesity in children aged 2 to 5, offers her expert opinion.

Why have obesity rates increased so much over the past several decades?

Quattrin: Changes in diet and activity levels have contributed to obesity. People are eating more, and eating less healthy food high in calories. In our research, we looked at the food intake of children 2 to 5 years old, and 7 out of 10 were consuming significantly more calories than the recommended 1,200 per day. There are children who eat a whole carton of strawberries, and their parents think that’s OK. But it is not-too much healthy food can contribute to the problem, too. Extra calories, along with low physical activity, lead to obesity-especially in people with a predisposition to developing the disease, and certainly in kids whose parents are obese.

What are some simple steps children and families can take to prevent obesity?

Quattrin: Parents should educate themselves by finding out their children’s body mass index, and their own. Young children who don’t look overweight may still be obese. Parents also need to be good role models. If the home environment is such that the refrigerator and pantry are full of junk food instead of fruits and vegetables, the child grows up feeling that’s the way he or she should eat. Being active is also important. Park a little further away from the supermarket. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the store or a friend’s house. These are simple steps that can ameliorate and prevent problems.

For the full Q&A with Quattrin and information on other faculty experts at the University at Buffalo, go to http://newstips.buffalo.edu

Teresa Quattrin, MD
Professor and Chair of Pediatrics
University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Pediatrician-in-Chief of the Division of Endocrinology/Diabetes
Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo

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