Preventing Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a burden in developed and developing nations. Overweight and obesity are caused by numerous social and environmental factors that influence people's food choices and physical activity. India has the second-highest number of obese children in the world after China, with approximately 14.4 million living with the condition.

 

What are the Causes of Childhood Obesity?

 

Causes-of-childhood-obesity

 

Family history of overweight or obesity, diet choices, psychological factors, and lifestyle play crucial roles in the health of a child. The most common causes leading up to childhood obesity are:

 

  1. Poor eating habits: In today’s fast-paced world, processed and ready-to-eat foods that are high in unsaturated fats and sugar pose the biggest threat to children. Junk food, overeating, and eating at odd hours lead to high levels of cholesterol, leading to unnecessary fat accumulation, thereby obesity gradually.

  2. Lack of Physical Activity: With the advent of technology and competition, children spend most of their time at their desks studying, or on their electronic gadgets playing. This lack of physical activity is a key contributor to childhood obesity.

  3. Family History: Having a family history of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases can be a major contributing risk factor to childhood obesity.

  4. Medical Conditions: Genetic syndromes like Prader-Willi (a rare genetic disorder that results in a number of physical, mental and behavioural problems, with a constant sense of hunger), and hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism are among the medical disorders that can cause obesity.

 

Signs of Obesity to Watch Out For in Your Child

 

Signs-of-obesity-in-your-child

 

Some of the most common symptoms of childhood obesity include:

  • Appearance: Stretch marks on hips and abdomen; dark, velvety skin (known as acanthosis nigricans) around the neck and in other areas; fatty tissue deposition in the breast area (an especially troublesome issue for boys)
  • Psychological: Teasing and abuse; poor self-esteem; eating disorders
  • Pulmonary: Shortness of breath when physically active; sleep apnea
  • Gastroenterological: Constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Reproductive: Early puberty and irregular menstrual cycles in girls; delayed puberty in boys; genitals may appear disproportionately small in males
  • Orthopaedic: Flat feet; knock-knees; dislocated hips

 

What Are the Long-term Health Risks With Childhood Obesity?

 

Childhood obesity can lead to long-term health-related illnesses like:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Early heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Bone problems
  • Skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infections, and acne

 

What Should You Do as a Parent?

 

Tips-to-prevent-childhood-obesity

 

Sometimes, as parents, we can get carried away with our child’s food and eating habits. We may think our child is healthy, but the only way to know exactly is to calculate their BMI, or Body Mass Index.  

 

The goal for children who are overweight is to reduce the rate at which they gain weight while maintaining normal growth and development. Children should not be put on any weight loss diet without the consultation of a medical expert.

 

Here’s what you can do:

 

  • Balance Calories: Give them foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. Encourage healthy eating habits by:

    • Providing plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
    • Including low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
    • Choosing lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
    • Serving reasonably-sized portions.
    • Encouraging your family to drink lots of water.
    • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages.
    • Limiting the consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

 

Physical-activity-to-reduce-obesity

 

 

  • Encourage Physical Activity: Engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. In addition to being fun for children, regular physical activity can:

    • Strengthen bones
    • Decrease blood pressure
    • Reduce stress and anxiety
    • Increase self-esteem
    • Help with weight management

Ensure your child participates in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical exercise most days of the week. Start adding exercise to your own routine and encourage them to join you.

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