Every year, October 26 is celebrated as World Obesity Day across the globe. Today, millions of people fall under the obese category and the numbers are not restricted to only men or women, even children are becoming obese. Obesity in small children and younger population is increasing at an alarming rate and is fast becoming a matter of grave concern.
As per World Health Organisation (WHO), childhood obesity poses some serious health challenges for everyone. The number of children falling prey to obesity might cross 50 million by the end of 2020, out of which 90% belong to the developing nations. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cholesterol, asthma and orthopaedic problems at a younger age. Obesity usually starts in childhood between the ages of five and six and progresses during teens. Studies show that an obese child is more likely to become an obese adult. Childhood obesity is the result of changes in food intake, lifestyle, and energy expenditure.
What are the causes of childhood obesity?
- A child is an increased risk of obesity if it runs in the family.
- Since dietary habits have changed enormously from eating fruits, vegetables, whole grain to processed foods and drinks, children have become vulnerable to obesity more than ever.
- Eating while watching TV or when not hungry can causes excessive weight gain. However, eating out at food joints is the prime cause because of oversized portions and high sugar content.
- Modern lifestyles have paved way for physical inactivity and stress-filled lives. An increasing sedentary lifestyle with more interest in televisions and less in outdoor activities are pushing children towards comfort zone where they are more likely to become obese.
- Some medical conditions such as hormone imbalances and inherited disorders of metabolism can cause obesity.
- Steroids can cause weight gain by altering the body metabolism.
Complications arising out of childhood obesity
- Sleep apnoea, asthma
- Eating disorders such as bulimia, binge eating
- High cholesterol and blood pressure
- Musculoskeletal problems, i.e. osteoarthritis
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Liver and respiratory problems
- Low self esteem, depression, anxiety and emotional problems
What are the treatment options for childhood obesity?
- A healthy diet and eating style should be followed. Foods like whole wheat, oats, ragi, jowar, broken wheat, pulses, skim milk and products, egg whites and loads of fruits and vegetables need to be chosen over refined flour preparations, fried foods, sweets, sugary drinks, colas, farsans, bakery foods, and biscuits.
- Efforts have to be taken to make the home food delicious.
- A pattern of eating 6-7 times in a day should be followed.
- When thirsty, encourage the child to drink water.
- The child should be encouraged to exercise and be involved in various outdoor sports and activities.
Childhood obesity is far simpler to prevent than to treat. Parents should be a good role model for the child as healthy lifestyle begins with the parents.