Child Obesity: Causes and Prevention

Child obesity and related adverse health effects have been a cause of concern in recent years, more so because the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. It is one of the biggest public health hazards today, as it has both emotional and psychological ramifications, which are difficult to deal with.

It requires serious attention, because this problem, if neglected for a long time, can lead to other life threatening conditions, ranging from diabetes and hypertension to severe ailments like cancer and heart problems.

Obese children have a tough physical life and in most cases grow into obese adults. This can lead to certain social problems like teasing by peers, and adjustment problems, which in turn can lead to serious nervous breakdown in certain cases. The point precisely being that child obesity is a difficult and serious problem that needs attention at early stages of detection.

To get an idea about the seriousness of the issue, it is interesting to take into consideration the World Health Organization’s analysis and research on the subject of child obesity. According to this article, child obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.  However, obesity is preventable, therefore, must be on a high priority status.

Causes

The most obvious cause of obesity remains to be an energy imbalance that is a result of disparity between energy consumed and energy expended. The global environment we call home, has made significant unwanted dietary changes, most of which are not for the good and have led to an increased consumption of unhealthy foods, which are high in sugar and salt, and low on necessary minerals and vitamins. The sedentary lifestyle, which is a result of the increased comforts of urbanization, is also a strong deterrent in achieving a healthy lifestyle.

WHO recognizes this problem as societal and therefore, it demands a population-based multi-sectorial, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach.  To know more please refer to this article.

The reasons for obesity are many, ranging from genetics to environment and certain psychological factors. We might even put certain blame upon the growing consumerist attitude that we are used to, in the current age of technological advancement, wherein the scope of physical activity has become pretty much restricted.

Some of the other causes as also stated in this page include:-

  • Demographics:  Racial and ethnic disparities in this context make an interesting study. It should be noted that 82.0 percent of Black women and 77.2 percent of Hispanic women are overweight or obese compared to 63.2 percent of White women (Ogden et al., 2014). Also, women are at a greater risk of being obese than men.
  • Geographical Region:  It has also been noted that obesity is a bigger concern for the southern regions of the US.
  • Socioeconomic status: Various reports suggest that children of low income families are prone to obesity more than people with a good socio-economic status. For more detail, refer here.

The problem becomes all the more difficult for these families because of the risk of developing other ailments and fighting under-nutrition and other infections at the outset.

What is surprising is the fact that under nutrition and obesity can exist simultaneously and wreak havoc. The situation can get out of hand and leave the child at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancer and the likes.

The relationship between the socio-economic status and obesity varies with sex, income, ethnicity, and this makes for an interesting and surprising observation. More information in this regard can be found here. This is one of the most credible sources that deal in this particular area.

Trends in child and adolescent overweight

Image courtesy of CDC

Why worry?

The most important cause of worry or panic is the fact that child obesity is not restricted to one’s childhood. It leads to premature deaths and disability in adulthood, which is a major concern. In fact, the mere thought of leading a life like that, is enough to send jitters down a person’s spine. The health consequences can be both temporary and permanent.

Another reason to worry about child obesity, especially in males, is when these boys grow up as obese men; they may suffer from sexual dysfunction. This can include issues such as erectile dysfunction, testosterone deficiency syndrome (hypogonadism), peyronie’s disease, or premature ejaculation. This can lead to deep-set psychological issues that may require specialized medication for treatment.

The severity of the situation can be accessed through the World Health Organization’s claim that at least 2.6 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese. To have a better insight on this story you can read more in this article.

Prevention

As they say “prevention is better than cure”. It is a good idea to introduce certain lifestyle changes as soon as possible. It is highly advisable to engage in physical activities and minimize indulgence in computer games and television to a bare minimum. In addition to this, it is extremely crucial to have a proper check on the eating patterns and remain as far as possible from over-eating and binge eating. A balanced diet with a good exercise regime is the key to a healthy and sound life.

According to WHO, the goal is to achieve an energy balance that could be maintained throughout an individual’s life span. It is absolutely mandatory to include fruits and vegetables in the diet along with legumes, whole grains and nuts. At the same time, efforts should be made to minimize the intake of unsaturated fats and the sugar levels should be kept in check. Remaining physically active is highly recommended, and there actually exists no substitute to walking, running, jogging or any good physical activity.

The role of parents cannot be neglected. They are the most important stakeholders in this regard, and it is upon them to tackle the problem of obesity in their wards. It is advisable to set a good example by encouraging a healthy lifestyle and at the same time, being patient with your child who might be dealing with obesity.

The government and public sector organizations can also make a significant contribution in this regard, as this is an epidemic that has the potential of becoming a national threat. Therefore, the public and private sectors can actually collaborate to make available cheaper preventative measures for the public at large. For private companies, this could act as a good CSR activity if given proper consideration. In fact, this area is not largely catered to and has a lot of potential that could be tapped.

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