Doctor in the House: Is child obesity the looming epidemic in India?

obesity is a growing problem worldwide and India joins the dubious ranks of countries that are seeing alarming levels of obesity in their populations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that poses a health risk. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese. Prices from overweight and obesity continue to grow in adults and children. From 1975 to 2016 the prevalence of overweight or overweight children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 more than quadrupled from four percent to 18 percent worldwide.

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While life-threatening diseases like cancer, cardiovascular problems and now COVID-19 get their due attention, the dangers of obesity are often underestimated and underestimated, despite being the cause of the deaths of 4 million people a year, according to the Global Burden of Disease in 2017 are.

Definition of childhood obesity

Any child with a BMI at 95 percentile or higher than their peers is considered obese.

BMI is a tool to measure or determine your weight status. You can calculate your child’s BMI by dividing their weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. (kg/m2). In children, BMI is age and gender specific because their body composition changes with age.

Pediatric BMI for Age Growth Charts measure growth patterns in children. A high BMI can be a sign of high body fat percentage. Although BMI doesn’t measure body fat directly, it can alert your pediatrician if your child needs further testing.

childhood obesity is a serious health risk for children worldwide. These children have transcended simple obesity and are at risk for a number of chronic health conditions, such as: diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. This poor health, which begins in childhood, can continue into adulthood.

These children battling obesity might also present with clinical depression and poor self-image and self-esteem.

Factors that cause obesity

Several factors play a role in childhood obesity, such as family history, psychological factors and lifestyle choices. Although family history can play a role, the main cause is overeating and not getting enough exercise.

A poor diet, high in fat, sugar and very few nutrients can cause children to gain weight quickly. The main culprits are basically candy, fast food and soft drinks processed foods loaded with hidden sugar. Ready meals like ready meals, salty snacks like french fries, and fried snacks like samosas are low in nutrients and high in carbohydrates, which while filling and appetizing for your child have no nutritional value.

Some children develop obesity because the food eaten by the family is fatty. Obesity in India is seen in the middle and upper classes of society, which is very different from developed countries where it is seen in the lower social class. In the developed world, fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than their frozen counterparts, making healthy eating tax impossible for many. The same is not true in the Indian context.

Not enough physical activity is another cause of childhood obesity. People of all ages gain weight when they are less active. Exercise burns calories and helps maintain a stable weight. Less active kids burn fewer calories on the playground or other activities. Children and adolescents who are bored, stressed, or even depressed may even turn to food as a coping mechanism.

risks of obesity

Diabetes, heart disease and even asthma are the more serious risks associated with obesity.

Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which glucose is not metabolized properly and blood sugar levels are high. Diabetes can lead to eye disease, kidney dysfunction, and even nerve damage. Obese children and adults are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This is reversible with diet and lifestyle changes.

heart disease
High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase the risk of future heart disease in obese children. Salty foods and fatty foods lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The offshoot of this is heart attack and stroke.

asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the airways. Obesity and asthma are very often associated, but a direct causal relationship has not yet been established.

sleep disorders
sleep apnea and snoring is more common in obese children.

mobility disorders
Joint pain and limited range of motion are more common in these children, although this can be reversed and full range of motion is regained once they begin to lose weight.

How to change eating habits in children with obesity

* To fight obesity, the first step is to change the eating habits of children with obesity. It has to start with the parents. You are in control of what your child eats, the food you buy and store around the house finds its way to your child. So limit the amount of candy, fizzy drinks and chips etc. entering the house. Drinks made from 100 percent fruit juice are also high in calories. Instead, encourage your children to drink water, and the milk should be non-fat or very low-fat milk. Processed foods must be avoided as much as possible. Make sure the food is home cooked and fast food is negligible.

* Getting your teen or youngster to help you prepare meals can stimulate interest in healthy yet fun food while establishing healthy eating and meal planning patterns early in life. The end result is not only a nutritious meal, but quality time with your child.

Use more
– fresh fruits and vegetables
– Lean protein like fish and chicken
— Whole grain products such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta
— Low-fat dairy products such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt

Other lifestyle changes that need to be adopted
Increase physical activity, encourage them to play in the park, or take up a sport they enjoy such as tennis, badminton, basketball, or even soccer.

Find physical group activities that the family can enjoy together, like hiking, swimming, or even kickball in the park.

Reduce screen time. Children who spend time watching TV or playing games on computers, smartphones, or other devices are more likely to be overweight. This eats up their playtime and snacking increases when they’re looking at a screen. It also exposes them to all the high-sugar, high-fat food advertisements you see on TV.

Try not to use food as a reward. Your child can assume that these foods are better than other foods. For example, if you tell your child that they will have dessert after they finish their vegetables, the wrong message about vegetables will be sent.

When eating out, choose healthier produce and think about portion size.

Encourage better sleep. Children between the ages of six and twelve need nine to twelve hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to obesity as the child eats more and is less active.

Childhood obesity is a complex condition that can lead to lifelong complications. Seeing how your child is dealing with weight issues can be difficult for parents. It is important to support your child regardless of weight. Focus on their health and explain why you want them to stay healthy.

(Dr. Saroja Balan is a consultant neonatologist and pediatrician at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Her column appears every two weeks.)

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