Healthy and happy looking little ones are a lovely sight. But obesity in those tender years rings an alarm. Children are the future and we look forward to a healthy future, don’t we?
Childhood Obesity-A Global Epidemic
The world is changing. Children do not think or act like children anymore. They are introduced to the rational world quite early and they learn to think, discern and act like adults. Children are changing physically too. The International Journal of Pediatric Obesity observed that at least 46% of the child population in North and South America are going to be overweight by 2010. It is predicted that 25% of Chinese children will be overweight by 2010 while 38% of all children in the European Union are also feared to join the gang. In India, the prevalence of Childhood Obesity has been marked as 22% in 2002. Dr. Anoop Misra, (Director and Dept Head of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Fortis Hospitals, New Delhi) raises his concerns on the rising number of obese Indians. Among Indians, Obesity is often the predecessor of Diabetes, lipid disorders and Heart Diseases. Further, obese children stand the chance of growing up into obese adults.
What is Obesity?
A “complex condition, one with serious social and psychological dimensions, that affects virtually all age and socioeconomic groups and threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries”, is what WHO says about obesity. Obesity is not just having a few extra pounds but having a high proportion of body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more than the normal weight.
The Risk Factors
Reasons for Obesity among Children
Childhood obesity is often the result of an imbalance between the calories taken and the calories burnt. It is highly altered because of the modern life style. Children do not eat, play or participate in activities as before.
1. Poor Food Habits:
Children are introduced and encouraged to have food which were not given to kids a decade ago. Many of them do not get the privilege of home-made food as tiffins. They are free to eat food available in the school or outside. These kinds of food habits deprive children of their required nutrition while earning them those extra calories.
Children by themselves are not aware of the health hazards they are exposed to while doing so. The Indian family represented in the Indian (Hindi) Movie Tara Rum Pum serves as a good example to this.
2. Overeating, Of course!
Among the affluent and the elite section of the society , not only children, but the adults also are exposed to abundance. Many of us do hold obesity as a sign of prosperity.
Jokes apart, the western diet is high in fructose and low in fibre. This diet affects the insulin in the body which in turn acts on the brain leading to overeating. Insulin also suppresses leptin, another hormone that increases physical activity and well-being and reduces appetite.
3. Lack of Physical Activities
Children do not have any compulsory physical activity in schools. People with the habit of sitting for hours on demand of school or work without any regular exercise can gain weight. They need not do any overeating. Some people have the habit of eating while watching TV or during work. The practice of eating when not hungry is another cause for Obesity.
4. Family and Genes!
Obesity can be hereditary. The lifestyle and food habits followed by a particular family can be a contributing factor. But it can be kept in check through diet and exercise.
5. Medical Conditions
Illnesses like neurological problems plays a major role in increasing body weight.
Steroids, oral contraceptives, phenothiazines, insulin and certain psychiatric medicines like some antidepressants may cause appetite stimulation and consequent weight gain.
7. E motional Problems and Events Causing Mental Stress
Those with psychological problems like depression or low morale tend to eat more. It is an interesting fact that you tend to eat less or more in response to your emotions. In most of these cases, there are no physiological factors leading to weight loss or weight gain.
Fat people go though a phase of low self-esteem, depression, shame, rejection and isolation. And children facing this kind of social discrimination end up with psychological problems.
Put an End to those Increasing Waistlines
The awareness should be brought on the public level. Children cannot be blamed alone for this as it is the responsibility of the whole society to build up a healthy generation. Parents as well as teachers need to work together for effective remedies. Only a balanced diet with sufficient physical activity can limit obesity among children.
For this, children have to be aware of the health problems they are prone to. Depriving the littles ones from their favorite food stuffs is both insensitive and injudicious. On the other hand, children need to be taught the values of quantity and quality. Parents and teachers share the responsibility of encouraging them for physical activities. Swimming and jogging can be real fun if the whole family gets into it. Parents need to spend some quality time with their children sharing their little joys and worries. A listening parent gives the child the confidence to face the world.
-Aparna K V