Childhood obesity is a huge problem worldwide, especially in the USA, Egypt, Argentina, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. In India, this rate of overweight children makes up 10-20%, approximately 15 million people between 8 and 18 years old. Hence, parents need to know the causes and outcomes of childhood obesity to protect children from this disease.
Obesity is a surplus of adipose tissue in children. It leads to esthetical, psychological, and social difficulties for children and adolescents and disrupts the functioning of all body systems. Above all cardiovascular, endocrine, and reproductive systems of the body are affected by this abnormality. Children face poor digestion and a decline in liver and kidney functioning. Moreover, they usually have weak joints. When a child with obesity gets older, his disease is more likely to develop into more severe forms of adiposity than teenagers without overweight could ever have.
Several factors can lead to childhood obesity. They include:
- Eating cheap food – such meals as fast food, snacks, or candy have too many calories and carbohydrates and don’t have enough nutrients or minerals in them. Therefore, children from economically vulnerable families more often experience obesity.
- Genetic syndromes Prader-Willi syndrome, Leptin receptor deficiency, and Bardet-Biedl syndrome;
- Smoking during pregnancy: if a woman smokes during pregnancy, she usually gives birth to underweight children. It causes aberration in pancreas functioning and increases the child’s predisposition to gaining more weight than needed;
- Artificial feeding. Children breastfed for at least seven months are less likely to have overweight;
- Premature birth;
- Not enough physical training or exercise;
- Some medications, especially steroids, antidepressants, and diabetes medications, increase the risks of childhood obesity.
Some causes like genetic predisposition or premature birth often cannot be avoided. However, future parents can ensure their child won’t face other dreadful factors, such as lack of physical training or eating cheap and unhealthy food.
Childhood obesity can cause various complications for teenagers, such as bronchial asthma, pathologies of the reproductive system, cholelithiasis, apnea, specific movement disorders, and carbohydrate metabolism disorders.
Although childhood obesity is a serious health condition, it can be treated. The most common aim of curing this illness include lowering the body mass and maintaining it on an adequate level.
Treating childhood obesity is difficult because of the unstable mentality and the corresponding lack of motivation. Hence, family support plays an integral role for little patients. Additionally, parents must strictly follow all the prescriptions given by doctors.
The first step is to change eating habits inside the family. At this stage, increasing physical exercise is also crucial. At the beginning of the therapy, parents should learn some information about healthy and unhealthy products. For example, children with obesity are allowed to eat food that provides the feeling of satiation and contains enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat. They include several sorts of meat and fish, vegetables, low-sugar fruit and berries, and wheat. However, children with overweight should avoid sweets, candy, sausages, or any other “artificial” meat, high-fat meat and fish, fizzy drinks, etc. Therefore, parents should pay attention to their child’s eating habits.
Physical activity without an appropriate diet does not lead to losing weight. The following reasons support this fact:
- A child with obesity cannot do sports for a long time period;
- Adults and children tend to overestimate the number of burned calories and eat heavy calorie-high meals after having exercise;
- Physical exercise, especially when performed outside, wakes a higher appetite.
As a result, the amount of eaten food is significantly higher than the power inputs while doing sports.
Nevertheless, in more than half of the children, diet therapy and active physical exercise allow them to lose weight. However, other researches state that to reduce childhood obesity children should additionally take medicine or visit a psychiatrist.
In the case of children, taking medications is restricted due to various side effects. Therefore, other methods of childhood obesity treatment, such as psychological therapy, started to gain popularity. Rational therapy proved highly effective. During this psychological, treatment doctors carefully and precisely explain all aspects of the disease to children and their parents. Psychiatrists disclose complications for children’s health, the importance of losing weight, and possible treatment methods and programs. Professionals teach the little patients’ parents to calculate the calorie content of various dishes and plan food allowance.
How can childhood obesity be predicted and prevented?
High body masses affect the child’s organism and increase the risk of later adiposity, premature death, and disability.
It is hard to detect genetic predisposition to childhood obesity; however, several signs can be noticed and used to prevent the disease. The preventive practices for childhood obesity should be oriented toward families where one or both parents are overweight or have a high body mass. Hence, such families should pay attention to eating habits control and follow plans for weight reduction. These practices are even more important if, during pregnancy, the woman had gestational pancreatic diabetes or put off much weight.
In addition, preventive measurements include:
- Rational and mindful eating
- Adequate physical exercise
- Behavioral psychotherapy.
Children who already have overweight need to apply secondary preventive measurements. The main aim of this secondary therapy is to lower the amount of fat tissue and the risks of further complications. The treatment is also based on rational eating and the needed physical exercise. In the case of childhood obesity, all family members must take part in behavioral psychotherapy.
Hence, childhood obesity is a huge problem worldwide, and to solve it, the parents and the child should try their hardest. Mindful eating and physical exercise, as well as, in some cases, psychotherapy, are core elements of a healthy life. In India, many children suffer from poor living conditions and eat unhealthy food, which might lead to obesity. It is a reminder for all parents to try to provide their children with the best living conditions possible to ensure their healthy life.
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