Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. Children who are obese are above the normal weight for their age and height. Childhood obesity is a matter of worry as children suffering from obesity are at higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol at such a young age. Being obese can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect your child's health now and in the future. A child whose BMI is between the 5th percentile to 85th percentile is in the healthy weight range. Kids who measure at the 85th to 94th percentiles are considered overweight, because of excess body fat or high lean body mass.
Signs and Symptoms
- Respiratory Difficulties: Shortness of breath when physically active; sleep apnea.
- Appearance: Dark, velvety skin (known as Acanthosis Nigricans) around the neck and in other areas; fatty tissue deposition in breast area seen in boys which mimics gynaecomastia; stretch marks on hips and abdomen.
- Reproductive Abnormalities: Early puberty and irregular menstrual cycles in girls; delayed puberty in boys; genitals may appear disproportionately small in males.
- Psychological: Teasing and abuse; poor self-esteem; eating disorders.
Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity
- Unhealthy Eating Habits: Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, baked goods and vending machine snacks, can easily cause your child to gain weight. Candy and desserts also can cause weight gain, and sugary drinks, including fruit juices are the culprits in obesity in some children.
- Lack of Physical Activity:Children who don't exercise much are more likely to gain weight because they don't burn as many calories. Too much time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games, also contributes to the problem, thanks to the world turning gadget friendly.
- Genetics:If the child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on weight. But this is a slow process, it could become faster if the child leads a sedentary lifestyle and eats food high on calories.
- Psychological factors: Some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom. This is mostly seen where the child is the only offspring of parents or where children are discriminated amongst family or where both parents are working and do not have enough time for their children. Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child's risk of obesity.
If your child is at risk of becoming overweight or currently at a healthy weight, you can take measures to get or keep things on the right track by:
- Eliminating beverages which are artificially sweetened and contain artificial colours.
- Making healthy and tasty meal options where the look of food is so palatable that children readily eat all fruits and vegetables.
- Eat at least 1 meal with the entire family and avoid sitting in front of television when you eat meals
- Limiting restaurant visits.
- Encourage eating meals at frequent intervals and reduce the portion size of the meals
- Limit TV and discourage the use of mobiles to play games. Encourage the child to play outdoor games.