Childhood obesity: How do we stack up?

February 06, 2011|By TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • The Centers for Disease Control report that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. A sedentary lifestyle is just one of the many reasons experts blame for the increase of childhood obesity.
Illustration by Chad Trovinger

With the national push to end childhood obesity— and campaigns targeted at "The Biggest Generation" —  kids today have a heavy burden to bear.

And Washington County youths are feeling the burden.

The Herald-Mail is launching a monthly series on childhood obesity and local efforts to combat what public health officials are calling an epidemic.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease and death, according to CDC data.

To get a sense of the scope of childhood obesity, here's childhood obesity by the numbers:


The percentage of obese youths in Washington County in 2004, according to Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (MBRFSS) data.


The human chromosome where you'll find the gene associated with fat mass and obesity. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 found that children and adolescents with variants of a gene known as FTO rs9939609 were more likely to lack the ability to control how much they ate. University of Michigan released a study this year suggesting childhood obesity had more to do with habits, not heredity.


The percentage of obese youths in Washington County in 2009, according to MBRFSS data, an increase of 59 percent more than the 2004 number.


The percentage of children who did not meet the statewide goal of engaging in 20 minutes or more  of physical activity three days a week, according to MBRFSS data.

100 to 200

The number of calories you can burn by engaging in moderate activity, such as jumping rope for 15 minutes or dancing socially for 30 minutes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Common kid chores count. Raking leaves and shoveling snow will burn calories, too.


The number of pounds of grain per capita Americans consumed in 2000 — 48 percent more than in 1970, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The year Nintendo introduced its Wii video game console. Equipped with motion-sensitive controllers and games such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports, Wii revolutionized gaming industry and seemed to soothe some concerns over the sedentary nature of playing video games. The games forced kids off the couch, on their feet and engaging in movement to play the games. By 2008, Nintendo sold more than 29 million Wii consoles worldwide, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.

1,000 to 2,000

The amount of calories that the USDA recommends young children consume every day. For older children and adolescents the range is 1,400 to 3,200 a day. The USDA released its dietary guidelines on Jan. 31, urging people to eat less salt and more nutrient-dense foods.


The number of calories children and adolescents in the U.S. consume daily. Grain-based desserts are the top source of calories among children and adolescents, followed by pizza, soda and energy drinks, according to USDA data.


The number of deaths annually in the United States because of cardiovascular disease associated with obesity. Obesity is also tied to 15,000 deaths from cancer and 35,000 deaths from other diseases each year, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

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