Childhood Obesity

Nidhi Gupta
Overweight and obesity in childhood have significant impact on both physical and psychological health. They are likely to remain obese in adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and disorders at a younger age. Overweight and obesity are the results of a rise in fat and calorie intake. There are many evidences to show that excessive sugar intake by aerated drinks, increased portion size, and steady decline in physical activity are playing major roles in obesity all around the world.
Factors leading to childhood obesity:
* Increased processed food consumption has been linked with obesity. Many families, especially those where both the parents are working outside the home, opt for fast food places as they are both convenient and inexpensive. Foods served at these restaurants tend to contain a high number of calories, high amount of sodium with low nutritional values.
* Portion sizes have also increased drastically. Eating large portions, in addition to frequent snacking on high calorie foods, which includes cakes, processed food, chips leads to energy imbalance and hence, weight gain.
* One among the factors that is most significantly linked to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. Every additional hour of watching devices per day has increased the rate of obesity by 2%. The increased quantity of their time spent in sedentary behaviours has decreased the quantity of time spent in physical activities. Research which indicates more thetime children spend watching TV, more they will fall for the advertised goods, including sugar laden cereals,sweetened beverages, and high sodium snacks. Media effects is related to adolescent aggression and smoking and formation of unrealistic body ideals.
* Low self-esteem- Overweight and obese children are often teased and bullied for his/her weight. Discrimination against obese individuals can be seen in children as young as 2 years old. These negative problems lead to low confidence, low self-esteem and a negative body image. Overweight children tend to protect themselves from negative comments and retreat to safe places where they will seek food as a comfort. Childhood obesity negatively affects school performance.
* Medical conditions – Childhood obesity has been linked to numerous medical conditions. These conditions include, but aren’t limited to, fatty liver disease, sleep apnoea, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol,insulin resistance, menstrual abnormalities etc. Many of these health conditions had only been seen in adults; now they’re extremely prevalent in overweight children.
What can be done:
The growing problem of childhood obesity can be stopped, if society focuses on the causes. There are many components that play role into childhood obesity.
* A combined diet and physical activity intervention conducted with in the community is more effective at preventing obesity or overweight. Children learn by watching parents and peers preferences, intake and willingness to try new foods. Availability of, and repeated exposure to, healthy foods is essential to developing preferences and may overcome dislike of foods.Moreover, if parents enforce a healthier lifestyle, many obesity problems may be avoided. When children learn about eating healthy, exercising and making the right nutritional choices, it eventually spills over into other aspects of their life. This will have influence on the choices kids make when selecting foods at school and fast-food restaurants. Focusing on these causes will decrease childhood obesity and lead to a healthier society. The history of Diabetes mellitus, Hypertension, Cardiovascular disorders in a family member emphasizes the increased risk of developing the same in the child.
* Eating out or watching TV while eating is associated with a higher fat intake
* The Physical Activity Guidelines recommends 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for children aged 6 to 17 years, while children aged 3 to 5 years should be physically active throughout the day.Aerobic plus resistance exercises have shown a tremendous impact on improving the metabolic profile of children and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disorders. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a screen time of less than 2 hours per day for greater than 2-year-olds. For children less than 2 years, it is recommended to restrict Television completely. Families should be engaging and encouraging them for physical activities in their leisure time.
Only parents can help their child with this issue. Take it as a warning sign and help your child to be fit and choose healthier options.
The author is Internationally Certified Coach (ACE)