Childhood and Obesity Causes and Prevention

Many of us fail to understand or refuse to accept the significance of the term "childhood obesity".this may come as a surprise to all weight conscious, mams, but obesity can be a health problem in children too. A well nourished baby is a joy to behold, surely that cannot be a bad thing, but consider this, children, or rather infants, who are obese show increased incidents of obesity later in life. About one third of obese people have been so since childhood. And most importantly in case if you don't know obesity is a form of malnutrition too!


Why does it occur?

There are five basic factors that can be implicated in causing childhood obesity.

1.Genes:

Obesity is sometimes seen to run in families. So if the parents are obese, the chances are that the child is likely to be so. According to the experts there are two main theories for childhood obesity, one believes very much in the genes, the other believes much on the environment factors. Researches show that the amount and the place where the body stores fat are strongly determined by genetics, in other words the tendency to over weight may be inherited, but it's the childs envioronment that determines whether or not the childs fat genes get the opportunity to expose themselves.

2.Diet:

Diet is one of the most important factors. What the diet is made up of and the frequency with which it is consumed, both matter. We may be overfeeding children without realising it - like mothers who feed their babies every time they cry. This is called "Overenthusiastic Feeding".

There is a certain calorie requirement for every child depending on his/her age and the activity indulged in. Continuously feeding a child more than its required calories will result in the deposition of all the excess in the form of fat. But even diet fads will matter greatly. Eating junk food, frequently eating between meals, consuming sweets in excess, using only saturated oils in cooking these are some feeding patterns that are certain to lead to obesity. Just letting the child feed entirely on chocolates and ice-creams because that is what the child likes, this sort of attitude also helps more in increasing the number of cases of childhood obesity in children.

It is not important to feed children a rich diet. But it is vital to feed them a balanced one that enhances their growth in all spheres. Remember, a rich fatty diet will only make them grow horizontally.


3.Inactivity:

Children today appear to lead far busier lives than perhaps their parents did as children. All that homework, those special classes, extracurricular activities, hobby classes and the like. But how many get to go out and have the simple pleasure of running about, getting dirty and muddy? TV, video and computer games, online games have virtually eliminated the necessity for children to go outdoors at all.

Naturally, a sedentary occupation like sitting in front of a computer screen asks for much less energy than an hour of hard physical activity like, say, running or any sport. So a well-fed child who indulges in very little activity doesn't burn up any calorie. All that energy has to go to some place - and that is done perfectly - turning everything into to fats.

On the other hand being over weight comes in the way of any strenuous exercise also. Because such children tire easily, this only leads to a vicious cycle of excess eating and below par activity so that the extra calories are not utilised at all.

4.Psychological factors:

For some children, eating is a way of life, for some others, it is a way of coping with emotional or psychological disturbances. An emotional child who is for some reason or other very hurt, may find solace in eating. Sometimes you may find that a child who is eating excessively is actually reacting to some form of depression, frustration or anxiety. Over weight children, if often made fun of by their unthinking, thinner compatriots may only drive them to eat more to get over their hurt and loneliness.

5.Hormonal factors:

There are several hormones, the deficiency or excess of which will manifest as obesity. So a fat child may actually be suffering from a hormonal imbalance. A decrease in thyroid, pituitary or sex hormones and an increase in cortisol levels are usually associated with obesity.

The Implications:

Obesity is a form of malnutrition because it is all about eating the wrong kind of diet. As mentioned earlier, childhood obesity shows an increased risk of obesity later in life. And obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, gall-bladder disease, diabetes and hypertension., it can also lead to many non-fatal diseases like hernias, osteoarthritis of the spine, knees and hips, flat feet and varicose veins.

Over weight children are often sluggish and in no shape to participate in sports or other activities, their weight may even become a prime cause to get psychological illness, since this may cause them to be withdrawn and lonely, leading to depression.

What is to be done?

Just as in the case of adults, a regulated diet and exercise pattern is all it takes to keep obesity in children in check.

Diet:

Children ought to be fed according to their age. Check this guide:

Age (In years) Calories(KCal/day)

1 - 3 1240

4 - 6 1690

7 - 9 1950

10 - 12 1970(girls) 2190(boys)

Limit the fat content of the diet to about 20-30% of the total intake.

Switch over to unsaturated vegetable oils instead of saturated fats.

Avoid junk foods

Incorporate into the diet foods that are rich in fibre(vegetables, fruits and grains)

Activity:

When even adults cringe at the thought of diet, it is certainly no easy thing to control a child's feeding habits. But he/she can be encouraged to engage in activities in which all the excess calories can be burnt.

Allow your child to play for some time every day.

Encourage sporting pursuits at school.

Reduce the time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

But many parents whose children are fat, just convince themselves that this is baby fat which the child will lose anyway, but why to take a chance? Especially when it is perfectly possible to save achild from all the hazards that come from being obese.

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