According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight as of 2008. Of these, more than 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. Excess pounds can contribute to a wide range of diseases and conditions, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, and some cancers.
The health survey included 1,196 normal-weight teenagers of both sexes. Data were collected from 1995 to 1997, and again in 2006 to 2008, when the participants were between 24 and 30 years of age. The researchers excluded those with physical or mental disorders and those who were pregnant. They also adjusted for pubertal timing and the participant's level of physical activity.
The study could help guide health education approaches about food and self-image in teens, said S. Bryn Austin, an associate professor in the department of society, human development and health at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It's an excellent study that highlights that when kids feel bad about their bodies they take less good care of them," she said.
Austin said parents should avoid telling teenagers they look fat or need to lose weight, and focus on creating a healthy, physically active environment at home. "Serve good food, offer a fun, physically active lifestyle, take the TVs out of the bedrooms," she advised. "Don't focus on restrictions or fear of weight gain."
She also blames the media for focusing too much on the obesity epidemic. "Body dissatisfaction is part of our obesigenic environment," she said. "There's a lot of hyper-focusing on the dangers, which increases dissatisfaction, adds stress and contributes to unhealthy attitudes and behaviors," she said. "It's a perfect storm."
Learn more about obesity at the World
All rights reserved