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What Helps Boys Prevent Obesity May Not Work for Girls and Vice Versa

Obesity in boys and girls differs.

Obesity affects 17% of children and teens in the United States at present, an abnormally high number which can have dire effects in the future. Childhood obesity is also known to discriminate between little boys and girls, a rather interesting phenomenon.

It's a fact that America has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, with staggering statistics to boot. After all, it is the land of McDonald’s, Burger King, White Castle, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, and KFC, none of whom are about to apologize for their extremely fattening, absolutely addictive, ten heart attacks in a delicious bite products. They are most certainly making their money and helping those gyms prosper too. It’s quite clear that health is of no importance but the road to health is oh so full of moments to seize and prosper through.

As such, it’s no wonder more and more children are gaining weight at alarming rates. A study released 2 days ago in the Pediatrics journal pointed to 2 very common reasons for this increasing worry: school lunches and television. The study pointed out that “boys were more likely to be overweight or obese than girls, with 19.4% of boys being overweight compared with 15.3% of girls and 18.4% of boys being obese compared with 15.8% of girls.”

• Let’s start with television, shall we? It’s a known fact that sitting before a television is one of the worst things you can do. According to the latest statistics, there is no difference in gender here, especially for the 20% increase in obesity rates in children who watch over 2 hours of television a day. That can be as little as 2 or 4 different shows a night. Where does the gender difference lie before the screen?

Young girls are more likely to be obese if they spend over 2 hours before a computer, while boys have the same problem with video games. That’s not saying everybody will become obese, but the likelihood increases with each extra hour spent sitting around without proper movement. Some of the problems they start to develop from a young age. Girls will have higher glucose levels and triglycerides, while boys were prone to higher cholesterol levels. Both developed high blood pressure and higher resting heart rate.

That’s a whole lot of problems for children yet to reach adulthood. One can only imagine how hard life and health would become once they reached midlife. The thought is utterly terrifying.

• And then come the school lunches. Seems harmless enough, no? Rather easy for the parents as well, reducing the worry of ensuring proper meals are taken daily at school. Yet research finds that children who ate school lunches were 30% more likely to be obese. Why? School lunches are not optimal in health, often being rather low in nutrient but abnormally high in calories. Of course, those most exposed to these lunches are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, qualifying for free or reduced-cost meals. No gender differences are seen here, unless there’s milk involved.

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So what’s the deal with milk? Here’s where the discrimination begins rather clearly. Girls who drink milk are actually less likely to become obese than their counterparts who do not; however, this consumption by no means effects the BMI (body mass index) of boys. They will gain the calcium, but the rich white fluid won’t prevent the onset of childhood obesity for the male sex. On the other hand, boys are more prone to ward off obesity by exercising than females. 20 minutes or more a day, for 5 or more days a week, means much lower rates of obesity in the males, whereas the opposite gender sees little to no difference.

Just out of curiosity, what are some of those frightening statistics mentioned in the beginning?

• Children are twice as likely to be obese today, while adolescents are thrice so, than 30 years ago

• The percentage of children between the ages of 6 and 11 years old who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to practically 18% in 2010, while the percentage of obese adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 increased from 5% to 18%

• By 2010, over 1/3 of the children’s population were overweight or obese

• Now in 2013, it is estimated that the number of deaths related to obesity has increased to 2.8 million people worldwide.

In essence, keep your boys active, your girls drinking milk, everyone away from the screen and inactivity, as well as packing nutritious lunches for school, and you will have protected your children from this epidemic strangling not only the higher socioeconomic class, but everyone without discrimination at least here. There is still hope!

Reference: Journal of Pediatrics, CDC.