The Obesity Epidemic- Understanding the Disease and the Treatment

Childhood obesity has been a hot topic in recent years. From Michelle Obama’s program to reconstruct school lunches to the many childhood fitness centers opening up, the health of our future has been on everyone’s mind. The prevalence of childhood obesity has risen from 4% to 6% from 1999-2004 to during 2011-2012 as stated in the article. Our children’s chances for more serious diseased states in their later years is increasing with every incidence of severe childhood obesity.

In this editorial, there is good evidence showing that obesity can be considered a disease that is initiated by interactions of genetics and the environment. Around 90% of children with severe obesity will become obese adults. The disease may start off as a lifestyle problem, but it can rapidly lead to energy-balance imbalances. In a way, the body sets a new body-weight set point and continues to try to maintain that.

It’s most important to note that none of the medications that have recently been approved and studied in adults to lower body weight have been studied in children. These drugs such as phentermine, lorcaserin, liraglutide have no evidence backing their use in the younger obese population. This puts a damper on the treatment of childhood obesity and the prevention of what disease states await these children. Bariatric surgery has been used on some adolescents as a means of sustained weight loss. But, the risks and benefits have yet to be closely analyzed in this population. There are social benefits to the patient but longitudinal studies of these patients still has to be done to establish if there are any long term risks. The main point of the article is that obesity is difficult to manage and prevention is one of the best and only ways that we can safely target our adolescent and child population against this disease. Lifestyle interventions should be closely instituted in children and followed through during their learning ages to best equip them to make the healthiest and safest decisions in their lives.

Knowing that lifestyle is one of the biggest preceptors to childhood obesity, should the parents of obese children be instructed to take parental guidance classes to help themselves and their children make healthier lifestyle changes?




N Engl J Med. 2016; 374:177-179




1 thought on “The Obesity Epidemic- Understanding the Disease and the Treatment”

  1. What is interesting about obesity in children is the fact that it is a disease that is self treatable and self diagnoseable. This means that parents and children can detect and calculate their BMI to determine if they are considered obese. Maybe the parenting classes will help with empowering them to take a more active role in monitoring their children’s diet and activities. I believe longitudinal studies correlating childhood obesity to adult obesity can be a strong motivational factor for early intervention in behavioral changes and lifestyle modifications.

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