Childhood Obesity: Causes, Consequences, and Preventive Measures

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Childhood Obesity: Causes, Consequences, and Preventive Measures

Plump or chubby babies are often adored for their lovable appearance, and many people find them cute and endearing. Family members often show their love by feeding children with sweets, chocolates and snacks. While baby fat is normal and typically resolves as a child grows and becomes more active, there are instances where excessive weight gain can lead to health issues. Too much weight gain in infancy may sometimes be a precursor to childhood obesity.

Childhood Obesity: A Significant Concern

Childhood obesity has become a topic of serious concern at the global forefront. According to a recent global study that was released on World Obesity Day, India is on the verge of increased childhood obesity cases in the upcoming years. The study suggests that India is likely to see a whopping 9.1% growth annually in childhood obesity cases by 20351. Besides this, obese or overweight children may succumb to other life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and asthma. 

Hence, a healthy lifestyle is essential to prevent the risk of childhood obesity symptoms. A little more effort and cautiousness from the parents and immediate family, especially in the child’s growing years, can help prevent the risk of obesity. Read the article to learn more about the causes, risks, and treatments of childhood obesity. 

What does Childhood Obesity Mean?

Childhood obesity is calculated based on the BMI (Body Mass Index). This is a certified measurement that uses a child’s height and weight to estimate whether the child is underweight, healthy, or overweight. A child who is at the 95 percentile of BMI or higher than the 95 percentile is considered obese or overweight. 

Childhood obesity in India is now linked with poor self–image and declined self-esteem among children. Children with obesity often lose their confidence, which can be a significant obstacle in their physical, mental, social, and emotional growth in their growing years. As they become less active and less energetic, they may suffer further from social isolation.

Apart from this, they are at a higher risk of succumbing to fatal diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hypertension, and asthma due to their obese body shape. 

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is becoming a serious problem. It is vital to know the underlying causes for childhood obesity. Some common causes of childhood obesity include

Genetics

It can not be denied that children  with a family history of overweight are more prone to obesity. This is a hereditary disease that can pass from one generation to another. A good lifestyle can reduce the risk of hereditary obesity. 

Low Nutrients

The food choices of children have shifted to empty-calorie food that doesn’t provide them with any nutrients. Fast food, chocolates, and cold drinks are popular empty-calorie foods among children. They gain weight quickly but do not gain any vitamins, protein, minerals, iron, calcium, etc. from their favourite foods. 

No Physical Activity

Some children are too lethargic to do physical exercise. Due to their busy professional lives, parents are often forced to neglect the physical activities of their children. Negligence towards the daily routine of the children makes them an easy weight gainer. Children tend to eat packaged food and get into binge eating, especially when without supervision. On top of that, they do not do anything to burn their calories. 

Psychological Imbalance

Children who don’t live in a stable family can suffer from emotional instability and psychological imbalance. They tend to eat more food to subdue their negative emotions, such as fear, anger, stress, and depression. 

Economic Well-being

The economic well-being of people has shifted their interest from traditional Indian homemade food to modern fast food culture. Children love to eat those packaged food items which are rich in sugar and salt and are easily available. They tantalise their taste buds which makes them gain weight quickly.

What is the Risk of Childhood Obesity?

Overweight or obese children are often prone to develop other serious health issues. The issue is serious, and that is the reason why childhood obesity prevention is being widely discussed at both national and international levels. Let’s understand the risks of childhood obesity:

Diabetes

Children who are overweight are more likely to get the early symptoms of type-2 diabetes. Type-2 diabetes is a serious health issue that doesn’t let children’s body’s glucose metabolise. It can become the cause of other horrible health problems, including eye damage, nerve damage, and malfunctioning of kidneys. However, a healthy lifestyle can mitigate the risk of diabetes in children. 

Asthma

In recent research, it has been discovered that the risk of asthma disease is most commonly found in overweight patients. Since the prevalence of obesity in Indian children2 is 15%, the risk of this disease is alarming. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that narrows down the lungs’ airways. A well-balanced diet can reduce vulnerability to both these diseases, especially in children. 

Heart Disease

The cases of cardiovascular disease in children have been rising gradually. Obesity being the foremost reason making cardiovascular diseases  even fatal. On-time obesity prevention can mitigate the risk of heart attacks and stroke in children. 

Joint Pain

It has been observed that overweight children can face problems in everyday activities like walking, running, and moving around due to their joint pain. They often complain about joint stiffness, numbness, tingling, swelling, and pain. The loss of weight can help them get relief from premature joint pain. 

Obesity Treatments: Lifestyle Changes

Managing obesity often starts with lifestyle adjustments. These changes include balanced diets, increased physical activity, and behavioural modifications. Implementing healthier habits, mindful eating, and regular exercise form the cornerstone of effective obesity treatment, fostering sustainable weight management and the overall well-being of a child. 

Let us take a look at some changes that can prove to be very helpful. 

Increase Physical Activity

Physical activity is the best obesity therapy that prevents them from the risk of obesity and its other severe risk factors. Those children who are obese or overweight can shed their weight within a short time. Hence, parents must take care of their children’s physical activities. Their motivation to encourage their children to participate in outdoor games and activities can help them lead a healthy life. 

Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Children eat what their parents offer. Therefore, they should be extra cautious while serving breakfast, meals, and dinner to their children. They should be given fresh seasonal fruits instead of high-calorie sugar juices. This will cut down their sugar intake.

Furthermore, as far as possible, homemade food should be preferred over packaged food items. Packaged food stimulates food cravings. Children tend to overeat and then, become the victim of obesity. 

The following food items and drinks should be included in their nutritious diet chart:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Non-dairy products such as oat/ soya or almond milk
  • Low-fat dairy products such as low-fat yoghurt, low-fat milk, and low-fat cheese
  • Whole grains such as millet, barley, ragi, sabutdana, and oats.

Sleeping Patterns

Take care of your child’s sleeping pattern. It has been observed that children who lack sleep often suffer from hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances often cause an increase in appetite and calories. Hence, parents should develop and encourage their children and also encourage healthy routines for their children. They should not be deprived of sleep due to their exams, studies, or excessive screen time. This will balance their hormones. 

Stay Away from Stress

They should be kept away from stress, fear, and depression. If there is something that is causing them to feel troubled, parents should find out the solution. This will improve the habit of overeating in them. Furthermore, if there is any family dispute/conflict, it should not be discussed among or with children. Their good mental and emotional development will foster their health. They won’t gain weight quickly. 

Final Word

Childhood obesity has become a serious phenomenon. Its underlying causes should be identified at an early stage; otherwise, its worse consequences can easily spoil your child’s health. It is never too late to start obesity prevention measures. It's essential for parents and family members to maintain a balanced and healthy diet for children, ensuring they receive appropriate nutrition without overfeeding. A healthy lifestyle and balanced diet will reduce the risk of other serious health problems as well. 

Regular check-ups with doctors and paediatricians can help monitor your child's growth and development to address any concerns about weight gain early on. With Care Health Insurance, you can ensure that you protect your family with the right health insurance policy for your child. You can ensure that financial hindrances do not limit the care your child needs. 

>> Also Read: How Obesity is Injurious to Your Health?

Disclaimers

1. The above information is for reference purposes only: Policy Assurance and Claims at the underwriter's discretion.

2. All plan features, benefits, coverage, and claims underwriting are subject to policy terms and conditions. Kindly refer to the brochure, sales prospectus, and policy documents carefully.

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