11/01/2011 01:01 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2012

Teen Obesity: Is Lack Of Education The Real Cause?

What keeps people from being able to lose weight? It's often said to be a lack of motivation, but for obese teens, the problem might be a lack of health education. A new study found that although 76 percent of obese teens have reported that they are trying to lose weight, their actions show that they might not be properly informed about how to make healthy decisions that will result in weight loss.

According to the recent study of Philadelphia high school students,14 percent of all American teens are obese, and over three-quarters of them are trying to lose weight. The problem? These teens might not know how to do it in a healthy way. Obese teens who said that they were trying to lose weight were twice as likely to smoke as obese teens who were not trying to lose weight. And while obese girls who were trying to lose weight were 40 percent more likely to exercise for an hour per day than those who were not trying to lose weight, they were also three times as likely to drink soda every day -- undoing many of the benefits of exercising. For obese boys, those trying to lose weight were actually found to be less active than boys who were not trying to lose weight -- in fact, they were 47 percent more likely to play video games for three hours each day.

And it's not just obese teens. A recent study in New Zealand found that girls who are trying to lose weight often adopt unhealthy habits such as smoking and skipping meals: nearly a third of 14 to 15-year-old girls skipped breakfast, and around 25 percent didn't eat lunch the day before. The girls tended to avoid protein-dense and nutrient-rich foods that they thought to be "fattening," such as dairy and red meat -- yet around 25 percent ate chocolate or sweets regularly.

Making healthy decisions isn't just about what you eat and how often you exercise -- the amount of shut-eye teens get is a big part of the equation, too. Another recent study found that getting less than eight hours of sleep per night was associated with obesity in male teens, and that getting less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights was correlated with a higher body mass index in male and female teens, as compared with teens who slept more than seven hours.

What do you think: should your school focus more on how to make healthy choices, for example how to eat better and get more sleep? Where do you go to get information on food, dieting, and general health? How do you think eating disorders (like bulimia and crash dieting) factor into the results these studies, if they should at all? Share your reactions in the comments.