Most Parents Think Childhood Obesity Is a Problem – but Not in Their Child
But is that true?
Childhood obesity is a resolute medical condition that affects children and adolescents.
It’s especially troubling because the extra weight often starts children on a path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Childhood obesity may also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
One of the best ways to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating and exercise habits of your entire family.
Treating and preventing childhood obesity aids in protecting your child’s health now and in the future.
Not all children carrying extra kilos are overweight.
Some children have larger than average body frames.
And children normally carry different amounts of body fat at the various stages of development.
So you might not know by how your child looks physically if weight is a health concern.
The body mass index (BMI), which provides a guideline of weight to height, is the accepted measure of overweight and obesity.
Your child’s doctor can use growth charts, the BMI and, if necessary, other tests to help you know if your child’s weight poses health problems.
When to see a doctor
If you’re worried that your child is putting on too much weight, talk to his or her doctor.
The doctor will consider your child’s history of growth and development, your family’s weight-for-height history, and where your child lands on the growth charts.
This will help figure out if your child’s weight is in an unhealthy range.
Causes of childhood obesity
Lifestyle issues — too little activity and too many calories from food and drinks — are the main causes of childhood obesity.
However, genetic and hormonal factors might come into play.
Many factors — usually working in combination — increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight:
- Diet. Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as junk foods, and baked goods can cause your child’s weight gain. Sweets and desserts also can cause an increase in weight, and more evidence points to sugary drinks, including fruit juices and sports drinks, as causes of obesity in some people.
- Lack of exercise. Children who don’t exercise much are more likely to gain weight since 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.
- Family factors. If your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on weight. This is especially true in an environment where high-calorie foods are always available and physical activity isn’t emphasised.
- Psychological factors. Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child’s risk of obesity. Some children overeat to cope with issues or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom. These tendencies may be present in their parents too.
- Certain medications. Some prescription drugs can increase the risk of developing obesity. They include prednisone, lithium, amitriptyline, paroxetine (Paxil), gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) and propranolol (Inderal, Hemangeol).
Physical complications of childhood obesity may include:
- Type 2 diabetes. This chronic condition affects the way your child’s body uses sugar (glucose). Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- High cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet can cause your child to develop one or both of these conditions. These factors can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, which can cause arteries to narrow and harden, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke later in life.
- Joint pain. Extra weight causes extra stress on the hips and knees. Childhood obesity can cause pain and sometimes injuries in the hips, knees and back.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disorder, which usually causes no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver. NAFLD can lead to scarring and liver damage.
Social and emotional complications
Children who have obesity may experience teasing or bullying by their peers.
This can affect their self-esteem a great deal
To help prevent excess weight gain in your child, you can:
- Set a good example. Make healthy eating and regular physical activity a family affair. Everyone will benefit and no one will feel left out.
- Have healthy snacks available. Stock and offer your children healthy snacks such as fruits and baby carrots
- Choose non-food rewards. Promising sweets for good behaviour is a bad idea.
- Be sure your child gets enough sleep. Some studies indicate that too little sleep may increase the risk of obesity. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to increased appetite.
Also, be sure your child sees the doctor for well-child checkups at least once a year.
During this visit, the doctor measures your child’s height and weight and calculates his or her BMI.
A high increase in your child’s BMI percentile rank over one year may be a possible sign that your child is at risk of becoming overweight.