Adolescent obesity sets children up for both physical and emotional health failure. In the past 30 years, the number of obese children has more than doubled, and in adolescents it’s quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension revealed as a child’s body mass index increased over time so did his resting and active blood pressure.

Researchers studied 715,000 Israeli male and female adolescents between the ages of 16 and 20. The data from their medical exams, culled from 1998 and 2011, revealed a strong link between their BMI and blood pressure. The amount of overweight participants increased from 13.2 percent in 1998 to 21 percent in 2011, and following sharply behind was their blood pressure. For boys, it rose from seven to 28 percent and two to 12 percent in females.

"Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure," the study’s lead author Dr. Yaron Arbel, from the Department of Cardiology at Tel Aviv Medical Center, said in a press release. "They are much more likely to be obese as adults and are consequently more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, numerous types of cancer, and osteoarthritis."

Weighing In Emotion

The problem is more deeply rooted than just blood pressure, however. A child becomes increasingly susceptible to social and psychological problems, such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem, as they weigh deeper into their obese condition. Weight stigmatization goes across the board and affects every age group, but children and adolescents are especially susceptible because of their hormonal changes and peer interaction. It can happen in completely different environments, but in school settings overweight or obese students can face harassment and ridicule from peers and even teachers, according to the Obesity Society. It begins to affect a person who is not only physically unhealthy but also emotionally. This can lead to a lifetime of problems long into their adult lives that they may never be able to outgrow.

Social consequences, too, are pervasive for overweight and obese youth and can quickly lead to low self-esteem. Past research has found the public perception for overweight and obese people is negative overall. They’re stereotyped as lazy, sloppy, incompetent, lacking self-discipline, disagreeable, less conscientious, and poor role models.

A child is one of the most impressionable members of human society, and to subject them to certain stereotypes is negligent and borderline abusive in certain countries. As the children of the world grow heavier with more ailments, laws are trying to catch up on where to place blame. There’s a fine line between parental negligence and a child’s love for food.

Nutritional neglect is filed under physical neglect, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Child Abuse and Neglect. It specifies when a child is undernourished or repeatedly hungry for long periods of time he will experience poor growth. The important thing to understand here is undernourishment is not starvation, but rather an inadequate balance of nutrients. A child who eats fast food and gummy worms on a regular basis is missing out on his vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and important lean proteins, which will oftentimes lead to being overweight or obese and all of the life-changing risk factors that come with the weight.

Source: Arbel Y, Chorin E, Hassidim A, Hartal M, Havakuk O, and Flint N, et al. Trends in adolescent obesity and the association between BMI and blood pressure- A cross-sectional study in 714,922 healthy teenagers. Journal of Hypertension. 2015.

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