Obesity in young children is a significant health concern with multiple long-term effects. They are at a greater risk for several chronic health conditions that can significantly affect their mental and physical health. Obesity can develop in infants and toddlers. Teaching children proper food and lifestyle habits at a young age is one of the most effective approaches to reducing the incidence of obesity. It is also crucial to recognise that not all overweight children are obese since some children have larger-than-average body frames at different stages of development, which they may shed or acquire as they grow. Experts recommend consulting a physician for advice and a diagnosis if one is still uncertain whether a child is overweight.
Dr Asmita Mahajan, the Consultant Neonatologist and Pediatrician at the SL Raheja Hospital in Mahim, discusses the causes and potential remedies for childhood obesity.
There are numerous causes of childhood obesity, some of which are beyond your control. Examples include lifestyle choices, psychological disorders, and family history. Children born into obese families have a greater likelihood of being obese. Obesity is induced by inactivity and overeating, particularly the use of processed foods.
A poor diet, including high levels of sugar and fat with no nutritious value, can cause youngsters to gain weight rapidly, and fast food, candy, and soft drinks are among the leading causes.
Obese children are more prone to developing various health problems than their peers who maintain a healthy, age- and height-appropriate weight. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma are significant health risks they face.
• Nervous System – Obesity significantly raises the risk of stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. According to a study, obese people are twice as likely to experience a Stroke, as excess weight places a great deal of strain on the heart and alters blood flow.
• Respiratory System – Excess fat around the neck can cause the airways to constrict, making it difficult to breathe, especially at night. It can culminate in Sleep Apnea, which can be fatal if left untreated. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is highly prevalent among obese patients and affects young children.
• Cardiovascular & Endocrine System — A healthy heart is vital to an individual’s well-being. When a person is obese, the heart must work harder to pump blood to the various organs, which can result in Hypertension or high blood pressure. Additionally, high blood pressure is one of the top causes of Stroke, making it necessary for people of all ages to maintain a healthy weight.
How Can The Risk Of Childhood Obesity Be Reduced?
Because the bodies of young children and adolescents are not fully developed, surgical or pharmaceutical weight loss is not the ideal option. Children who are obese should not be placed on a diet without a doctor’s approval, as a restricted diet may not give sufficient calories and minerals for growth and development. The following guidelines will assist obese children in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
• Prioritize excellent health over reaching a specific weight. Without emphasising body weight, teaching and modelling a healthy attitude toward eating and physical activity is crucial. Too much emphasis on importance can lead to a negative attitude toward food and diet, which can result in food-related disorders that are detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health.
• It is crucial to prioritise the family and avoid isolating obese children since this can lead to sadness and loneliness. Therefore, the entire family must collaborate to enhance their physical activity and diet.
• Parents should provide healthful snacks at certain times to their children. Combining two food groups, such as fruit wedges with whole-grain crackers, is a fantastic idea. Please do not give kids packaged goods such as fruit juice and candy, as they contain much fewer nutrients.
• Promote physical exercise among all age groups of children. It is a good idea to set aside time daily for all family members to engage in physical activities such as walks, bike rides, hikes, and active games.
Obesity in children is a serious issue that must be handled comprehensively and purposefully due to its long-term effects. With the proper education and support, children can learn healthy methods to cope with challenges, make nutritious meals, and maintain an active lifestyle to prevent obesity. This help must be provided by adults who play significant roles in the lives of children, such as parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers.