Why is Childhood Obesity Considered a Health Problem?
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. It occurs when a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height. The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults, including factors such as a person’s behavior and genetics.
Behaviors that influence excess weight gain include eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, not getting enough physical activity, sedentary activities such as watching television or other screen devices, medication use, and sleep routines.
Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority.
Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their cells don’t use it as well as they should. Doctors call this insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to try to get glucose into the cells. But eventually it can’t keep up, and the sugar builds up in your blood instead.
Children with obesity also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, almost 60% of children who were overweight had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 25% had two or more CVD risk factors.
Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.
To help your child maintain a healthy weight, balance the calories your child consumes from foods and beverages with the calories your child uses through physical activity and normal growth. One part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations. Increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts for your child. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein. Try to cultivate the habit drinking lots of water, limit sugar-sweetened beverages and the consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Children should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time your children watch television, play video games, or surf the web so to maintain a healthy lifestyle and protecting his eyesight in the long run.