Childhood obesity is a problem affecting both developing and developed countries. Obesity negatively impacts the physical and psychological health of children. One potential risk is these kids can grow into adults while still obese, leading to an unhealthy workforce for a nation. Being overweight also exposes them to developing non-communicable diseases associated with weight gain.
The causes of childhood obesity are still being researched considering many causes of the condition. Some of the factors contributing to rapid weight gain in kids include lifestyle preferences, environmental factors, and the socio-cultural environment. Here is a look at some of the risk factors for obesity in children and their complications.
What is childhood obesity?
Children getting treatment at a pediatric hospital in Mumbai or other parts of India are considered obese if they have a higher body mass index (BMI) than 95% of children in the same age bracket. BMI determines an individual’s weight status and is calculated using weight and height.
Gender and age also play a substantial role in determining BMI. Obese kids cannot be counted as overweight because they are exposed to multiple chronic diseases. These health issues from obesity can follow a child into adulthood.
Risk factors of obesity in children
Intake of sugary beverages
Consuming sugary beverages increases children’s BMI over the years in small amounts. Sugary drinks like juices, sodas, and any sweetened beverages are considered risk factors for obesity in children. Sugary drinks have a higher caloric intake considering they are consumed quicker and are less filling than food.
Feeding children snacks regularly can expose them to obesity from a young age. This category comprises baked foods, candy, and chips. Even though snacks may not directly be linked to causing childhood obesity, they have a higher calorie intake. Therefore, constant consumption of snacks can potentially make a child overweight.
Over the years, food portion sizes have doubled or tripled. As a result, kids consume large portions besides eating snacks and high-calorie foods. These foods cause weight gain in kids, leading to obesity. Doctors at the best pediatric hospital in Mumbai advise parents to portion food moderately to manage calorie intake.
A sedentary lifestyle is single-handedly contributing to obesity in children, who spend more time with their mobile phones than on playgrounds. Children on gaming consoles or watching TV for prolonged hours have an increased risk of obesity. Children and adolescents now watch TV and sit on the computers for more hours than a decade ago. The more time children spend on sedentary activities, the less time they have for sports and other physical activities. While kids watch TV, they also consume a lot of processed foods. This category includes sweets, sweetened cereals, beverages, and snacks.
Even though electronic media largely contributes to sedentary lifestyles, environmental factors also impact physical activities. Spaces and safe environments that promote physical activity have declined in recent years. For example, children rarely walk or ride their bicycles to school. Most kids today are transported to school, and when they get home, they may not perform any physically intensive tasks such as playing outside.
Socio-cultural factors also contribute to obesity, considering today’s society uses food to reward or control kids. Even social spaces today use food to socialize, which creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Such practices expose children to obesity at a young age. The unhealthy relationship is likely to continue into adulthood.
One overlooked factor is how familial influence contributes to obesity in children. Some factors to consider include the type of food consumed in the house and food preferences. Eating routines can also influence the type of food children eat. Other family habits that influence kids include physical and sedentary activity.
Family, parental, and personal stress can alter a kid’s eating habits. Some children consume more food and artificially-sweetened beverages because they do not know how to handle their emotions. Some get into the habit of eating snacks constantly to beat down boredom or lack of confidence. Parents may also have the exact coping mechanisms that the kids will copy.
Health risks and complications resulting from obesity
Type 2 diabetes
It is a chronic illness where a child’s body cannot fully metabolize glucose. Children with type 2 diabetes can suffer nerve damage, eye disease, and kidney problems. Obesity causes diabetes in both children and adults.
High cholesterol causes high blood pressure, which exposes children to heart diseases. In addition, consuming foods high in salt and fat raises cholesterol levels exposing children to heart attacks.
Asthma causes inflammation of a child’s lung airways. Obese children are likely to suffer from asthma. However, this does not mean that asthma cannot attack non-obese people. It is only that a higher percentage of people who have asthma are overweight.
Obese children who visit pediatric hospitals in Mumbai are more likely to suffer joint pains and stiffness with limited motion to excess body weight. These joint pains can go away by losing weight.
Obesity in children is a problem in India despite the numerous weight management therapies. Parents should start educating and supporting children to adopt healthy ways to cope with problems. Kids should also be encouraged to remain healthy by engaging in physical activities. It is necessary to educate kids on healthy food habits and lifestyles from a young age. Take care of your children and keep them healthy by offering nutritious foods and snacks.