How to prevent obesity in children for better health?

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Introduction

Humans have developed gradually in a world where high-calorie food has historically been in short supply and valuable, and because of that starvation was a constant danger. This is one of the main reasons obesity is so difficult to treat; since our bodies are wired to store fat. Obesity now is a global phenomenon and obesity in children is alarming.

prevent obesity in children
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Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic issue. Obesity in children is a serious concern because it is connected with poorer mental health and reduced quality of life.

Obesity is also associated with the leading causes of death worldwide and is the leading cause of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. 

Children become overweight for the same reasons as adults.

Children are now spending too little time in physical activity and eating too many calories from food and drinks, which are the main causes of obesity in children.

But genetic and hormonal factors might play some role as well. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that can affect them in the future.

These include serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all once regarded as adult diseases.

Why is obesity a big problem in the 21st century?

Obesity in children is alarming
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Obesity in Children

The high availability of food products high in calories, once scarce can be grown on an industrial scale fueling obesity.

Obesity is going to be the leading cause of death and disability in the 21st century.

This epidemic is largely caused by increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the abundance of tasty, high-calorie foods.

Obesity and some facts?

Obesity is generally caused by eating calorie-dense foods and moving too little. If you consume food high in fat and sugars, but do not burn extra calories through exercise and physical activity, much of the extra energy will be stored by the body as fat cells.

Body mass index (BMI) above 30 is obese, while a person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight.

You can check your BMI in the BMI calculator in this blog. 

Obesity Facts in the US

  • One-third of adults in the US have obesity. 
  • Obesity affects 1 in 6 children in the US. 
  • It causes more than 60 chronic diseases.
  • Obese children have a high probability to become obese adults.
  • Being obese with a large waist size increases the risk of diabetes.

As per CDC Obesity affects 19.3% of about 14.4 million children and adolescents.

  • Obesity is 13.4% among 2- to 5-year-olds.
  • 20.3% among 6- to 11-year-olds.
  • 21.2% among 12- to 19-year-olds.

Childhood obesity is more common among certain population groups.

How does obesity in children affect them?

Obese children are also more likely to suffer from:

  • Social isolation, 
  • Depression
  • Lower self-esteem

The effects of obesity can last well into adulthood.

Obesity in children have a higher risk of suffering from chronic health conditions and diseases, such as 

  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Obesity is particularly troubling because the extra weights often start children on the path to health problems that were once regarded as adult problems 

Obesity has both short and long-term effects on children. 

Long-term risks include 

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure

Immediate risks include a greater likelihood of

  • Prediabetes 
  • Bone and joint problems,
  • Sleep apnea
  • Social and psychological problems.

Obesity is a very serious condition because it is associated with

  • Poorer mental health. 
  • Reduced quality of life. 

How can schools help in the fight against obesity?

Serving healthy choices in the lunchroom.

  • Salad bar. 
  • The choice for grilled or baked, not fried and breaded.
  • More veggies. 
  • The choice for fruit, not fruit juice.

Limiting the distribution and marketing of unhealthy foods and soda, and making water available to students throughout the day.

These are some of the ways that schools can help to fight against childhood obesity.

Why is knowledge of obesity important?

Education is a tool that provides parents and teachers with better access to information and critical thinking skills.

Speakman et al. (2005) hypothesized that the low awareness among teachers and parents about the calorie content of food may contribute to the effects of obesity in children. 

More knowledge about childhood obesity can be attributed to more health-related information.

More knowledge about the risks associated with obesity-causing lifestyle choices can help society be more informed while making those choices.

Obesity in children and learning?

A study has found that children on the threshold of obesity in the first two years of life had less perceptual reasoning and working memory than normal children when tested between 5-8 years.

The study also found that IQ scores may be lower for obese children.

8 most common causes of obesity in children

  • Physical inactivity by too much screen time. 
  • Diet high in carbohydrates. 
  • Eating too many calories than needed. 
  • Higher frequency of eating. 
  • Medications can also be the reason for overeating. 
  • Stressed children eat more. 
  • Diseases: Such as hypothyroidism, insulin resistance also cause obesity.

Obesity runs in family

A kid with one obese parent has a 50% more chance of being obese than a normal kid.

When both parents are obese, then the kid has an 80% chance of being obese.

Many factors contribute to calorie intake and burnup, which is why weight loss and gain vary among people.

Ways to lose weight: 

  1. Make kids eat a balanced breakfast. To keep your metabolism high while reducing weight, don’t skip breakfast. Start your day with a balanced, nutrient-rich, low-calorie, low-fat diet.
  2. Make them eat lots of protein. By reducing carbs and fat content in your diet with protein, you boost satiety. This leads to a reduction in hunger which means you eat fewer calories which is the reason protein helps you lose weight. 
  3. Let them drink lots of water. Water can be useful for weight loss. It has zero calories, helps you in digestion, and suppresses your appetite if consumed before meals. The benefits are even much more when you replace soda with water. 
  4. Don’t buy unhealthy foods. Unhealthy foods like junk food are absolutely not needed by your body. You need healthy nutrient rich tasty foods which may not cost much if you buy smartly. 
  5. Make them eat plenty of fiber. Fiber is absolutely necessary for your gut health. It helps you in digestion and suppresses hunger. 
  6. Use smaller Plates for calorie-dense food. This will automatically reduce the portion size for high-calorie food. 
  7. Reduce their portion size. Often portion size is more than necessary. It will help in the long run by not overeating. 
  8. Make them eat mindfully. Make them eat slowly by properly chewing. And don’t let them watch TV or mobile while eating. Don’t let them eat when full.

Promote a healthy lifestyle.  

Promoting a healthy lifestyle means you empower individuals to choose healthy choices for themselves and their kids and family. Which creates a healthy society, country, and world free from obesity in children. 

How to do it. 

  1. The focus should be on good health, not a certain weight goal. Even if a kid is overweight but is active and happy then you should focus on making him aware of good diet and choices. 
  2. Focus on the family. Family is the most important influence in a kid’s life. Children depend on their parents to protect them and provide for their needs. So a family which follows a healthy diet has a huge impact on kids’ future food choices and health.
  3. As a family, you should eat together as frequently as possible.
  4. Plan sensible portions. Sensible portion means eating a quantity of food based on calories and nutrition.  
  5. Encourage kids for several hours of physical activity a day. Be active yourself and do more family activities. 
  6. Always eat healthy meals, drinks, and snacks.
  7. Spend less time on devices. Reducing screen time for kids frees up more time to connect with family and friends. Feeling more connections helps ward off symptoms of stress. While stressed kids also binge on food which is bad for their health.
  8. More sleep time. Studies have found that kids who get the right amount of sleep regularly have improved attention, learning, memory, and overall better mental and physical health.
  9. Eating more fruits and vegetables. Eating more fruit and vegetables is strongly linked to better mental health in school children.
  10. Eating more whole grains. Whole grains are a good source of nutrients like B vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber which most kids do not get enough of.

What should the government do to stop obesity?

Governments must act despite corporate opposition and must ensure policies for better nutrient-dense food with low amounts of fat and sugar.

Government interventions should include forcing calorie reduction in food, marketing restrictions, and sugar taxation.

Conclusion

Kids are the future of the world. The recent surge in health issues such as obesity in children is a real eye-opener. Obese kids are at higher risk of being diseased before reaching puberty which can have huge consequences for the family. Everyone should be aware of obesity as a scourge of mankind. As per CDC data, the latest data on childhood is not only alarming but also very frightening.  

By John Gurung

A former software developer who is now a blogging enthusiast. A true digital nomad.

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