Childhood obesity is prevailing all over the world from the last three decades.
Childhood obesity has taken the shape of epidemic and this epidemic is more severe in the developed countries.
However in developing countries this obesity is also prevailing and this is mostly due to the changing life style.
Obesity is mostly the result of increased calorie and increased fat intake.
It is also due to high intake of sugary drinks, other junk foods and decrease in physical activities.
Childhood obesity affects children’s physical health and self esteem.
Sometimes medical status of a child results in obesity like renal and pulmonary disorder, metabolic and neurological disorder etc.
The definition of obesity is not fixed and changing with time to time. Mostly defined as,
“Excess of body fat”
Some studies shown that the children in the age group of 5-18 years are considered fat, if the percentage of the body fat for males is 25% and for females is 30%.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Obesity basically results from imbalance between the intake of energy and utilization of energy.
This is also due to changing lifestyle which is more closely related with the high intake of junk food.
The genetic background is also a major factor determining the obesity.
The BMI (Body Mass Index) is 25-40% hereditary according to some researchers but this causes less than 5% of childhood obesity.
Life style, policies of schools and activity behaviors influences the childhood obesity. More intake of fast food is related with obesity.
Mostly in those families where both parents are working, children are more likely to be obese because parents favor fast food as it is more convenient.
Intake of these fast foods are calories rich and are having low nutritional value which results in weight gain of an individual.
1. Snack Foods
Snack foods contributes in childhood obesity and it includes bakery items like cakes, pizza, pastries, cookies etc, chips ands candies.
These foods increases the weight as they are rich in calories.
Snacks are junk foods that includes salt, sugar and fat which increases weight but does not fulfil the nutritious needs of an individual and so harm the body in addition to weight gain.
These calories are taken additionally with meals, when body gets extra than its needs, it will result in weight gain.
2. Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are not mouth filling, so they are consumed quicker which increases the calorie intake.
The sugar contents in these drinks are much more and when they are consumed in addition with the normal meals, the calorie intake increases which increases body weight.
Extra intake of sugars also results in diabetes Type 2. Sugary drinks also include soda, juices, cold drinks etc.
Studies also show link between sugary drinks and weight gain as they have no nutritional value.
Regular or more frequently use of these drinks also leads to heart problems and the risk of pre mature death also increases.
3. Activity Level
One of the thing that increases obesity rate is decline in physical activities and sedentary life style.
Television commercials also results in childhood obesity as they are viewing the advertisements of soft drinks, sweets and salty snacks and then children wants the consumption of these foods.
This increases obesity as body gets more calories than its needs. Media should promote healthy eating.
Children also spend more time using media which lessons their physical activity and the body gains weight.
4. Portion Size
In the past decade, portion size is increased. Utilization of large portion along with intake of snacks that are calorie rich increases the calorie rate of the body.
This practice obviously increases weight and fats in the body causing obesity.
5. Family Factors
Sometimes genetic factors influences childhood obesity and obesity increases with the food preferences of family members.
Food type available in house and food choices of the parents influences obesity.
Meal times of a family also have impact on childhood obesity.
It also depends upon the family habits whether they engage themselves in physical activities or not.
6. Environmental Factors
Excessive use of media along with some other environmental factors lessons the physical activities.
In the past mostly children go to school or other areas on foot but as the life style changed, this activity almost reduces to zero.
Either the parents drove their children to school or they move on their own using some other convince.
Psychological factors includes
1. Depression and Anxiety
People who are suffering with anxiety or depression mostly experience weight gain.
Cortisol hormone is released during stress which increases the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats which creates great amount of energy, ultimately boosts appetite.
If this hormone is released in extra amount it causes more craving towards fatty foods.
2. Body Dissatisfaction
At all ages body satisfaction is always higher in males than females.
Nowadays western culture is more adopted here so thinness is considered ideal for females whereas males are considered muscular.
So it can be said that boys with low BMIs faces high level of body dissatisfaction.
3. Self Esteem
On comparing the obese and normal weight children, researchers found that self esteem of obese children is much less.
They are teased for their health status. Therefore they can’t do better like other children.
This again creates emotional disbalance and emotional disbalance results in weight gain.
4. Medical Conditions
Childhood obesity has been linked with number of medical conditions such as diabetes Type 2, asthma, liver disease, glucose intolerance etc.
Most of the health conditions related to childhood obesity can be prevented when a child reaches a healthy weight.
But some of them continue to have the negative consequences throughout adulthood. If these conditions prevails and reaches worst stage , it results in death.
Childhood obesity can be decreased if the society pays attention to its causes.
There are many factors that has affects on children health.
A healthy diet along with physical activity can prevent obesity.
If parents make right choice in selecting food and having a regular exercise routine helps in overcoming this problem and this leads to a healthier society.
Written by Manahil Usman (BSc. Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Institute of Food and Nutritional Sciences, PMAS Arid Agricultural University, Rawalpindi.