Joel Lavine, Columbia University Professor, discusses the unique complications presented by childhood obesity in a journal publication drafted with colleagues.
DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA, June 2022 – The complications and causes of childhood and adolescent obesity often grab headlines as the obesity epidemic. While catchy and true, these efforts can detract from the incredibly real consequences obesity has on the long-term health of a child. Dr. Joel Lavine has dedicated his career to the research of childhood obesity and serious related health concerns, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
In a paper previously published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Lavine and three colleagues provided an overview of childhood obesity focused on prevention and management techniques.
By identifying key indicators pointing to future obesity, health care professionals can help pursue intervention before an obesity problem develops, making it easier for both a child and caregivers to embrace positive choices permanently.
Childhood obesity, as defined in Joel Lavine’s paper
According to the obesity research, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide percentiles in the BMI for age chart that can be used to determine if a child is obese or at risk for obesity.
The paper states definitions based on these charts can be easily adopted in a clinical setting but can provide an arbitrary cutoff point that does not take into account other factors, such as the impact of ethnicity on BMI.
Ways to combat obesity
For juveniles, the risk of obesity in later adolescence is reduced when breastfeeding is used versus bottle-feeding, according to observational studies referenced in Joel Lavine’s paper. Breastfeeding is promoted for both general nutrition purposes and because it may protect against obesity later.
The home remains the best place to lower the risks of childhood obesity, with family involvement in positive lifestyle changes leading the way. These long-term behavior modifications can include dietary changes, promotion of physical activity in the home, and a reduction in sedentary behavior.
Through full family participation, a developmentally appropriate approach can be developed for the child to promote long-term behavior modification. A healthcare professional in a community or acute care facility setting can also assist with providing evidence-based care for juveniles.
Severe obesity treatments
In cases of severe obesity, there is not a consensus on treatment. However, hospitalization, more drastic dietary interventions, the use of pharmaceuticals, or bariatric surgery may be options for weight management, particularly when a child is experiencing other serious health issues related to obesity.
These steps may be taken in a specialist center dedicated to obesity management with more extreme measures deferred until specific criteria regarding participation in weight loss therapy are met. Health care professionals will also assess key factors, such as if the adolescent has reached skeletal maturity.
Treatments at the community level
For long-term combating of obesity, specific initiatives need to be in place at the school and community level to provide more options for moving and healthy diets at home and in school. An environment that supports positive food options and active life is more likely to yield positive results, particularly for the prevention of obesity, based on the report co-written by Joel Lavine.