Houston family deals with toddler obesity

HOUSTON - A Houston family is dealing with toddler obesity. 

Brigette Whitehead, 4, is a patient in Healthbridge Children's Hospital's Obesity Program.

When she got to Healthbridge, Brigette weighed 66 pounds.  She is now 54 pounds.  She dropped 12 pounds in two months.  Now Brigette's entire family is learning about nutrition.

"I wasn't educated enough to know that you shouldn't use a whole stick of butter when you are frying something," said her mother, Lisa Whitehead.

Brigette also has a genetic disorder that causes her to constantly be hungry. Her mother has learned that makes her food choices even more important.

"Like fruit isn't always as healthy as you think.  There's a lot of natural sugars in that.  At home she would sit around and eat 6 or 7 bananas a day," said her mother.

The whole family is taking weight loss seriously. The mother has lost 13 pounds. Her husband has lost 10 pounds in two months.

Dr. Sharonda Alston Taylor is the director of the obesity program at Healthbridge Children's Hospital.  She says today, 16 to 17 percent of children are obese, and in Texas has some of the highest rates.

"Depending on the county it can be as high as 20 percent," said Taylor.

Getting a handle on obesity early in life is key. If parents and doctors can get a child's weight normalized by adolescence, they greatly reduce risk factors.

"If you don't intervene, then you are looking at things like liver failure, high blood pressure, enlarged heart, obstructive sleep apnea," said Taylor.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 22 million children under age 5 are overweight.

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