Causes And Implications Of Obesity In Children

“Childhood obesity is a real problem and has put the entire generation at risk.”

Childhood obesity is turning into an epidemic with its cases rising at an alarming pace all over the US, UK and Australia. The number of obese children in Brisbane aged 7-15 years has almost doubled from 1985-1995 while that of overweight children has tripled. In Australia, one in five children and adolescents suffer from overweight or obesity concerns. If the pattern continues, it’s estimated that over 65% of Australians will be struggling with overweight or obesity by 2020.

Obese children grow up to become corpulent adults and face several physical and psychological comorbidities like heat intolerance, sleep apnoea, lethargy etc. Needless to mention, they are more prone to develop several chronic diseases in adulthood viz.:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Musculoskeletal diseases like osteoporosis, flat foot, degenerative vertebral diseases
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Varicose veins
  • Some forms of cancer (breast, oesophageal, colorectal, liver)
  • Fatty liver, high cholesterol levels, leading to gallstones etc.
  • Eating disorders – bulimia and binge eating
  • Behavioural disorders like low self-esteem, inability to develop social relationships

What causes childhood obesity?

Many lifestyle and dietary habits can be blamed for the abnormally growing weight of children in Brisbane and globally. Most importantly, it’s the changed societal models that contributed to this:

  • Readily available sugar-laden soft drinks, juices and sodas, often bearing misleading nutritional information on labels.
  • Over-commercialisation of food products – the glorification of new-age fast food that has little or no nutrient value and provides only empty calories.
  • Rapid-paced technological advancement is leading to the easy access to the addictive and advanced gadgets like TV, smartphones and computers.
  • Easy access to indoor means of entertainment due to increased family income among working professionals in Brisbane and unavailability of parents for the most part of the day. This also leads to Vitamin D deficiency. Hence, it’s important to know how to diagnose and treat Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Decreased emphasis on physical education in schools and less outdoor activities.
  • Promotion of taxi and car travels.

Notwithstanding the many reasons linked to obesity in children, there are specific ways to assist them in growing into healthier adults.

The Govt of Australia has been taking many measures to curb this menace. The Dietician Association of Australia is dedicated to supporting the concerned parents by suggesting the most practical diet solutions.

Lifestyle modifications:

  • Increase physical activity. Begin with a 20 minutes activity each day like running, cycling, jumping rope, basketball, or even dancing.
  • Family counselling to support changes in the home environment. Identify the common symptoms and treatment of depression.
  • Counsel the children about the hazards of overeating and promoting healthy food habits.

Diet modifications:

  • Limit packed juices, sodas, and junk food.
  • Stay informed about the lifestyle and diet for diabetes mellitus if your child is a diabetic.
  • Encourage the consumption of fibre rich non-starchy foods like vegetables and fruits, and replacing sweet beverages with water.
  • Restrict screen time to two hours (TV, laptops, and computer games).
  • Set a positive example by switching to healthy habits yourself.
  • Stock home inventory with healthful food items only to restrict access to junk food.

It’s never too late to begin moving in the right direction. A definite step forward during the childhood ensures that the children develop into confident, healthy and happy adults.