One of the most severe public health challenges of the twenty-first century is childhood obesity. According to the WHO, there are more than 41 million overweight children under the age of five and 340 million overweight children between the ages of five and 19.
Childhood obesity, on the other hand, is frequently treatable by dietary and lifestyle adjustments. These lifestyle adjustments are especially critical for obese children because they are more likely to remain fat into adulthood and acquire weight-related health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of childhood obesity.
What is childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity is a major medical problem that affects overweight children and adolescents. Excess weight often leads to ailments such as diabetes and high cholesterol in children, as well as low self-esteem and despair.
Childhood obesity is determined by comparing a child’s BMI to that of other children their age and gender. BMI is a measure of body weight in relation to height that is computed by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters.
Furthermore, childhood obesity can be minimized by modifying eating habits and encouraging physical activity.
Symptoms of Childhood Obesity
Children that are overweight are not usually obese; some children have larger body frames than others. Furthermore, during different phases of development, children have varying degrees of body fat. As a result, knowing how your child seems when he is overweight is tough.
As a result, obesity is measured using the body mass index (BMI), which provides a weight-to-height recommendation. Medical experts to determine if the child is overweight, which could lead to health problems can use a growth chart and BMI.
In addition to excess weight, the following are common signs of childhood obesity:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased sweating
- Sleep Apnea and snoring
- Joint pain
- Dislocated hips
- Flat feet and knock knees
- Skin rashes and irritation
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Early puberty in girls
- Delayed Puberty in Boys
If your child is overweight and exhibits the symptoms listed above, consult with your doctor, who will assess your child’s history of growth and development.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Obesity develops in children when they consume more calories than their bodies require, resulting in an energy imbalance. Many variables contribute to energy imbalance, including heredity, hormones, metabolic constitution, and medical issues. Obesity in children is frequently caused by a complex interaction of several factors, which include diet, lifestyle, and environmental situations.
However, genetic traits make the child more likely to become fat, but if the youngster eats well and exercises regularly, they can keep a healthy weight in the normal range.
Below are the different factors that cause obesity in children:
Eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages such as fast food and snack foods contribute to your child’s weight increase. This includes eating too much food while sitting for an extended period of time watching TV, using a computer, or talking on the phone.
Obesity also develops due to a lack of physical activity. As a result of not burning enough calories, youngsters gain weight. Furthermore, it is advised that children aged 6 to 17 years obtain at least one hour of exercise per day.
One of the environmental variables is a lack of simple access to healthy food options, which leads to weight increases. Children who are fed high-calorie, low-nutrient meals on a daily basis with no opportunities for physical activity are more likely to become obese.
Some environmental factors, such as a lack of access to safe parks, playgrounds, or other areas of physical activity, contribute to weight gain. Furthermore, regular eating of junk and fast foods, as well as constant video game play, are factors that contribute to obesity.
When a parent is obese, the child is more likely to become obese. There are, however, numerous strategies for parents to prevent their children from becoming obese. Many hereditary disorders, such as continuous hunger that leads to overeating, can cause childhood obesity.
Stress and Depression
Obesity is more frequent in children who experience stress, anxiety, or sadness. Some children overeat to relieve or avoid painful emotions such as loneliness, stress, and boredom, which endanger their health.
People in lower-income regions frequently lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, instead relying on fast food and highly processed prepared foods. People in these settings frequently choose cheaper foods over better, more expensive foods. Furthermore, they lack the time and energy to commit to physical activity and are at risk of becoming obese.
Many types of drugs can promote weight gain, which leads to obesity. Steroids, antidepressants, and various other drugs, such as diabetes and insulin, all induce weight gain.
Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity
The optimal treatment for your child’s obesity is determined by his or her age, medical condition, and other factors. In addition, the treatment will include dietary and activity adjustments, as well as learning new coping techniques for boredom, anxiety, disappointment, and grief. Weight-loss surgery may be part of a childhood obesity treatment plan in some situations.
Let’s look at some of the treatment options available for childhood obesity.
Changes in Lifestyle
A few changes in your child’s lifestyle can help him or her achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The same actions can also help avoid obesity over time.
Get adequate exercise
Physical activity in any form burns calories and builds children’s bones and muscles. Furthermore, physical activities assist youngsters in falling asleep and getting adequate rest, which can improve their mood and vitality. Physical exercise should be between 150 and 300 minutes each week, according to experts, to maintain a healthy lifestyle for youngsters.
Physical activity can take many forms, such as going on a trip or playing a game outside, sliding about the home, or having a dance party in the room. Other favorite hobbies include playground games, hide & seek, jumping rope, swimming, and biking.
Get healthy food
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and lean proteins should be offered to youngsters. However, you should avoid offering your child processed and convenience foods that are high in sugar, fat, and calories, such as cookies, crackers, fast food, and prepared meals.
Stick to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, and involve your child in the preparation of healthy meals so that they feel included.
Avoid sweet beverages
Prevent your child from drinking fruit juice and sodas that are heavy in calories and low in nutrients since they can make it difficult for your youngster to eat healthy food. Between meals, you can serve water, milk, or diluted fruit juice.
Avoid eating outside
Eating out raises the risk of obesity because restaurant meals are heavy in sodium and fat, both of which contribute to obesity and high blood pressure. Additionally, try to avoid using the television or computer during mealtimes, as these might distract your child from their satiety signals and lead to overeating.
Let the child get enough sleep
In youngsters, a lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain due to an increase in ghrelin levels, a hormone that regulates appetite. Furthermore, not getting enough sleep can deprive your child of the energy needed to exercise during the day.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, serve the food at least two hours before bedtime and restrict screen time in the evening.
Keep a check on screen time
Constantly playing video games, computer games, and watching television might make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. According to the WHO, children over the age of two should not have more than two hours of screen usage every day.
Weight Loss Medications
If lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough to keep your child from becoming obese, you can get him or her a weight loss prescription. Weight loss drugs, on the other hand, are only suggested for children above the age of 12.
Weight Loss Surgery
Weight reduction surgery is only for children who are severely obese and are unable to lose weight through other means. Children over the age of 13 who have a BMI of at least 120% of the 95th percentile for their age and gender can have weight loss surgery, according to the recommendations.
Childhood obesity is a complex condition that can have long-term consequences. Furthermore, it is critical to encourage your child to keep healthy while supporting them on their weight loss journey. Check your child’s BMI percentile with your doctor once a year.