Childhood obesity has been a growing problem in the U.S. for several decades. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children with obesity has tripled since 1970. In fact, one in five children aged six to 19 is considered obese.
Due to the pervasiveness of this issue, clinicians around the country are likely to encounter pediatric obesity regularly. The Endocrine Society, an international organization dedicated to researching metabolism and endocrinology, released a new guideline to assist in the treatment of this condition.
What is The Endocrine Society's new guideline?
The CDC reported that childhood obesity leads to more missed days of school than a healthy BMI and that the condition can lead to additional health problems. Pediatric obesity actually has a number of costs. According to Duke University, the condition costs roughly $19,000 in medical costs, per child. When multiplied by the number of obese 10-year olds in the U.S., that equals to more than $14 billion.
The new guideline from the Endocrine Society seeks to lower these expenses by taking a more proactive approach to treating childhood obesity. Here are the main takeaways of the guideline, as reported by Medical Xpress:
- Children with extreme obesity should receive testing for genetic conditions before five years of age. This includes testing for extreme hyperphagia - an increased drive to eat commonly associated with damage to the hypothalamus.
- Fasting insulin levels do not need to be tested as they have no diagnostic value.
- Children with obesity only need to be tested for endocrine disorders if their height or growth rate is less than expected based on age and the stage of puberty they are in.
- If a child's BMI is greater than the 85th percentile, he or she should be tested for diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
How is pediatric obesity most commonly treated?
Obesity in children is generally treated in a slower manner than in adults. An adult may be capable of losing several pounds per month or week. However, the Mayo Clinic suggested that children between the ages of 6 and 11 should only attempt to lose about half to one pound each month.
"Diet and exercise are common treatments for pediatric obesity."
A combination of diet and exercise is the most common treatment for childhood obesity. On occasion, a physician may prescribe medication or surgery, although those options are quite rare. Dietary options typically involve lowering intake of refined sugars and increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents should encourage their children to eat during mealtimes and not while watching TV or playing games.
Physical activity should be emphasized in the form of games and free play rather than regimented exercise. Children will respond much more positively to activities they find fun and entertaining. Advising adults should always take into consideration the child's opinion when looking for a new activity.
With the Endocrine Society's new guideline, clinicians should be more cognizant of how to treat pediatric obesity. The guideline encourages customizable treatment options within a general framework that can be applied to the large number of obese children in the country.