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Obesity In Children

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In the past 3 decades, obesity in children has doubled up. You will find nearly 18% children in the US were obese as compared to the 7% obese children in 1980. This is a serious matter when it comes to health concerns. Let us read more about childhood obesity in the following paragraphs.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is having excess body fat. Being overweight means one has excess body weight as compared to the height from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of these factors.

How Is Obesity Measured?

It is quite obvious to notice obesity in a person. However, one can always measure the Body Mass Index (BMI)to know if one falls under the overweight or obese category.

BMI is calculated with the help of height and weight measurement that helps give an estimate to body fat. With the help of this estimate you can understand the BMI of your child:

  • Underweight
  • Normal weight
  • Overweight
  • Obese

What Causes Childhood Obesity?

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Obesity in children is due to storage of extra fat in the body. This can happen due to:

  • Genetics – Some children have a genetic makeup that makes them prone to obesity. In some, it is due to a rare genetic disorder that makes one obese.
  • Overweight parents- Parents who themselves are overweight may have overweight children as it tends to become a family trait. When one parent is obese, there is 50% chance their children will be obese. In case both parents are obese, there is 80% chance of their children being obese.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Children who spend hours in front of the TV, computer or playing electronic games tend to weigh on the heavy side. This is because lack of physical activity that causes fat buildup within the body.
  • Junk food – Today, children gorge on junk food that is filled with sugar and high fat. This unhealthy food option makes them more and more obese as compared to children in the past.
  • Emotional problems – Children with low self esteem, depression, or other emotional problems can suffer from obesity as they indulge in overeating to vent out their emotions.

Risk of Childhood Obesity

Obesity poses its own risk. These risks include:

  • Development of type 2 diabetes
  • Heart diseases
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing problems like asthma
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Early puberty/menstruation
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Problems with foot structure
  • Bulimia or binge eating

Apart from these physical consequences, obesity in children can lead to:

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  • Low self-esteem as these children are often teased about their weight
  • Bullying in school or college
  • Behavioral problems due to poor social skills and anxiety
  • Depression as they are bullied, teased and have few or no friends

Obese children are more likely to grow obese as adults. Adult obesity leads to its own health complications.

Management and Prevention of Childhood Obesity

Management of childhood obesity includes changes in the diet and the amount of physical activity. They are taught healthy lifestyle changes that includes eating healthy. Physical activity is promoted to decrease obesity and related diseases. Goals are set that should be promoted with rewards and praise after they are achieved. Reduce TV, computer and electronic game time. Let children go to parks and playgrounds to play and get active.

In some cases, medications and surgery is necessary to treat obesity in children.

In order to prevent obesity, one should:

  • Avoid giving starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice, etc. to obese children
  • Make sure children eat 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily
  • Maintain a lot-fat diet and decrease their daily calorie intake
  • Reduce sodas and other sugary drinks. Encourage them to drink more sugar free natural juices and water
  • Parents should eat with their children and everyone in the family should eat the same food
  • Go for cycle rides, swimming, gardening, playing tennis, etc. with children to promote a healthy active lifestyle
  • Allow children to take part in sports, active recreational activities, etc. that helps them maintain weight, win friends and learn social skills.

Childhood obesity is becoming a worrisome problem for most parents. With today’s fast food lifestyle, it is difficult to control a child’s eating preferences. Thus, every parent should take extra efforts and get involved with the child’s daily activities to make sure they grow into emotionally, mentally and physically strong adults.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 06, 2015

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