SSM Health Medical Minute: Obesity may put young people at risk for depression

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SSM Health Medical Group pediatrician Dr. Hong Frankel says obesity is a serious problem even for very young children.

"Now we are seeing about a third of 5-year-olds falling into the definition of being obese," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 35% of young adults in the US are obese, with 32% of young adults having dealt with anxiety at some point in their lives. A scientific study has confirmed a connection between the two, finding obesity to be an independent risk factor for anxiety and depression among children and teens.

Their findings: girls with obesity were 43% more likely to experience anxiety or depression; boys with obesity were 33% more likely.

Obesity can start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems. Many obese children become obese adults.

"Depression, anxiety, cardiovascular, blood pressure, you name it; there are [sic] a whole chain of reactions due to obesity," Dr. Frankel said.

Dr. Frankel encourages parents to set an example by improving their eating and exercise habits.

"I like the farm-to-table option, you know, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean protein like chicken, fish; it's totally good for you to drink water," he said. "As parents, it's so important. You can't just give in to all demands. Your kids say, 'I want to have ice cream.' Sometimes as parents, you have to say, 'No.'"

If you are worried that your child is putting on too much weight, talk to their pediatrician.

"That's the goal for us. For pediatricians to create healthy adults," said Dr. Frankel.

To find a pediatrician, click here.

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