Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. The prevalence of childhood obesity has steadily increased over the last few years. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the numbers of childhood obesity has dramatically raised from 32 to 41 million since 1990. Facing childhood obesity has become an important health issue of the decade.
Last Updated: 22 October 2020
What is childhood obesity?
Overweight or obese is excessive fat accumulation that poses a health risk to children. Children can be classified as obese or overweight based on his/her Body mass index (BMI). As children’s bodies undergo a lot of physiological changes during their growth, it is difficult to develop one single measure.
BMI in children is based on an age and sex specific measure of a child’s weight relative to their height. A child is considered as obese until the weight is at least 10% higher than what is recommended for their height.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention made a “BMI chart” for children to track their growth according to her age. It is a percentile system to show how your child’s BMI compares with other children of the same age group.
The BMI of children and teens are classified as
· 5th to 84th percentile – Healthy weight
· 85th to 94th percentile – Overweight
· 95th percentile or higher – Obese
If a child is in the 85th percentile, he is heavier than 85 percent of the children of his age and is overweight. If he is in the 95th percentile, he is obese.
Causes of Childhood obesity
Obesity most commonly begins during ages of 5 to 6 or during adolescence. A child who is obese during the ages of 10 to 13 has an 80% chance of becoming an obese adult.The causes of obesity include an admixture of genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors. Let us see what the possible causes of childhood obesity.
Family history of obesity
· Children having easy access to cheap, high calorie junk foods that are enriched with fat but low in vitamins and minerals
· Kids consuming large amounts of sugary drinks
· Bigger portions of food and unhealthy food choices
· Parents overfeeding their children
· Schools not focusing on physical education programs
· Parents making their children getting addicted to the digital world (mobiles, computer) and making their lifestyle sedentary
· Medical illness (hormonal and neurological problems)
· Depression or other emotional problems (Parent’s divorce or separation, lack of attention from family members)
Facing childhood obesity
Facing childhood obesity is a huge responsibility of parents and the entire society. Here are a few options that can be tried.
Encourage your children to buy green vegetables and plenty of fruits.
· Explain them the nutrition value of each and everything they eat.
· Children follow their parents. So if you follow a proper eating pattern, your children will follow the same.
· Try to avoid high calorie snacks and sugary drinks. Instead make them consume natural drinks that are rich in vitamins and minerals.
· Limit fast food which is rich in fat and calories.
Try to cook food at home and avoid it from restaurants. Spend time with your kids while eating and make them enjoy eating healthy foods
· Serve the right portion of food and don’t overfeed them
· Don’t make your children skip their breakfast.
· Avoid trans-fat and eat healthy fats like fish, olive oil, nuts, sprouts
Lack of physical activity is one of the primary reasons of childhood obesity.
Ask your children to avoid screen time in mobiles, TV and computer. Encourage them to play outside.
· Walk with them and make it as a regular habit
· Choose schools which have a playground and gives importance to physical education.
· Encourage them to participate in sports and other activities
· Make them get involved in small household works
Complications of Childhood obesity
Obese children may turn out to be an obese adult. Obese children may be at a risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, sleep problems and joint pain. Teens with weight problems have lower self-esteem and may have emotional issues like depression and anxiety. Healthy food choices and proper physical exercises can make them get rid of these issues.
Facing childhood obesity requires careful and meticulous efforts from both parents and children. Early intervention helps in eliminating serious health problems.