Currently, childhood obesity has become a very serious global health problem that gradually affects developing countries especially in urban areas. The rate at which this problem increases is terrifying. Over 42 million children globally, below the age of five, were estimated to be overweight in 2010. About 35million of the overweight children were found to be living in developing countries. In the United States, children and teenagers with obesity accounts to about 5-25% (Dietz, 1983). However, in adults, it varies with ethnic group. Estimation from research findings is that 6% of black and white children are obese while 19% of Hispanic girls and 12% of Hispanic boys are obese (Office of Maternal and Child Health, 1989). Obesity is a growing problem in the UK and other countries and is currently the subject of a Common Health Committee Inquiry. According to (Nao, 2001) “the most recent (2001) estimates for England suggest that some 8.5% of 6 year olds and 15% of 15 year olds is obese”. On the other hand, in USA twenty percent of children are overweight and about 11% are obese that is according to (Mahshid, Noori and Anwar 2005, p.1). This is a concern because obesity is an important risk factor for death and a range of chronic diseases in adult life. An overweight or obese child has higher chances of becoming an obese adult and can highly develop diseases like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Both obesity and overweight are preventable. We should therefore prioritize the prevention of childhood obesity. This essay will discuss the reasons of childhood obesity and the health problem related to the obesity. In addition, it will evaluate some possible solution of childhood obesity.
Obesity, in basic terms, is the accumulation of excess body fats. If the body weight is in excess of 32% fat in girls and 25% fat in boys, then obesity is said to be present (Lohman, 1987). Childhood obesity is also defined in terms of weight and height. It is the weight-for-height in excess of 120% of the normal. However, it can accurately be measured by skinfold (Dietz, 1983; Lohman, 1987). Childhood obesity is connected to adult levels of lipids, blood pressure, and insulin and to morbidity from coronary heart disease.
The main problems of obesity
It is true that all the obese infants do not grow and develop into obese children, and similarly; all the obese children do not grow into obese adults. However, its prevalence rises with age (Lohman, 1987), and there is a high possibility that childhood obesity continues throughout an individual’s life (Epstein, Wing, Koeske, & Valoski, 1987).
An obese child is faced with various problems other than the great risk of becoming an obese adult. Childhood obesity is the major cause of pediatric hypertension. In addition, it is linked with diabetes mellitus (Type II), reduces self-esteem, increases the chances of coronary heart disease, puts a lot of stress on joints, and greatly affects the relationship of the child with his/her peers. The social and psychological problems associated with obesity in children are considered as the most important consequences. Other problems include high blood pressure, sleeping problems, cancer, early puberty, liver diseases, eating disorders e.g. bulimia and anorexia, respiratory problems like asthma, and skin diseases.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
There are several causes of childhood obesity; however, the major one is the imbalance in the energy intake and the energy consumed/energy out. Energy intake is the calories from food while the energy out is the calories used in BMR (basal metabolic rate) and other physical activities.
Causes of childhood obesity can be grouped as family factors, nutritional factors, physiological factors, and psychological factors.
In a situation where both parents are obese, children have the greatest risk of becoming obese (Dietz, 1983). This can result from the genetic factors since over 200 genes in the body are responsible for obesity, some of which are hereditary. It can also result from parental modeling of exercise behaviors and eating behaviors (Ross & Pate, 1987).
Eating habits and the dietary in general directly results into obesity. Drinks and foods rich in calories are very much available for children. Continuous consumption of soft drinks rich in sugar also contributes to this disease. Family meals usually influence the food choices for the children.
Sedentary lifestyle/Low energy expenditure
Another main cause of childhood obesity is physical inactivity. A child who does not engage in regular physical activities bears the greatest risk of obesity. Most children fail to engage in physical activities because they spend a lot of the time in stationary activities like watching television, and playing computer games.
Environmental factors together with genetic factors also contribute towards childhood obesity. Polymorphisms in the genes that control metabolism and appetite influence an individual to obesity. These genetic conditions include Prader-Willi syndrome, MOMO syndrome, Leptin receptor mutations, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and Melanocortin receptor mutations.
Hereditary also plays a major role in childhood obesity as it influences response to overfeeding and fatness (Bouchard et al., 1990). It has also been proved that infants from overweight mothers are less active and gain more weight as compared to their counterparts (Roberts, Savage, Coward, Chew, & Lucas, 1988).
Developmental factors like breastfeeding usually protect children against obesity in later life. The breastfeeding duration is inversely proportional to the overweight risk. Body growth pattern may also influence the gain of weight.
Management of childhood obesity
Before starting to give solutions to childhood obesity there are some advices to patients of obesity. First, each patient should be considered a special case. Second, usually in the first two weeks weight loss occurs faster than normal that is because decrease in water rates in the body so people should not worry about that.
There are many solutions to childhood obesity. But each solution needs to be applied properly to get the good result. Firstly, sport is very important to get rid of obesity. The sports help in burning more calories stored in the body. For example, if anyone walks one mile a day, they will burn from 75 to 125 calories as a result (L. Lee Coyne, 1996-2009). Secondly, people should always consult a doctor about reasons to increase or decrease in their weight. For example, if anyone has big different in its weight body and is not know a reason. Thirdly, child obesity should follow a systematic diet; for instance children’s food should contain low-sugar, low-fat and high fibre. Fourthly, parents should take more care in their choice of diet. It should not be expected to treat obese children while their parents are not having a healthy diet, such as eating potato chips and heavy deserts. Fifthly, Teach students about the dangers of obesity. That is by giving them some advice about healthy food. Finally, Surgical use to get rid of obesity. That is by stapling the stomach to make it much smaller (Erica Heilman, 2002).
Treatment of Childhood Obesity
In children and adolescents, weight loss is not the goal in treatment of obesity. The main aim in the treatment is to halt or slow the rate of weight gain. This makes the child to grow into his/her proper weight. According to Dietz (1983), a child needs eighteen months of weight maintenance so as to attain an ideal weight in case of a twenty percent increase in body weight.
Very early interventions are very essential once obesity signs are seen in a child. According to Wolf, Cohen, and Rosenfeld, 1985, eating habits and exercise habits in children are easily modified. The three forms of intervention that are very essential include physical activities, diet management, and behavioral modifications.
The adoption of an exercise program that makes the body more active highly helps in the burning of excess fats and at the same time increase the body energy expenditure. This method, however, has not been identified as a good strategy for dealing with obesity in children. For its success, it must be combined with behaviour modification and nutrition education (Wolf et al., 1985). Never the less, exercise has a lot of advantages which include improvement in blood pressure and blood lipid profiles (Becque, Katch, Rocchini, Marks, & Moorehead, 1988).
Diet management is not about fasting as many would think. Extreme caloric restriction or Fasting is not desirable in children as it directly leads to psychological stress and may affect the growth and the mentality of the child towards normal eating habits. A well balanced diet with reduced or minimum dietary fat (average restriction in calories) is used as a successful means of treating obesity in children (Dietz, 1983). Nutrition education is also needed. A combination of proper diet management and exercise is very effective in cubing the obesity problem in children (Wolf et al., 1985).
Parents can modify the behaviours of their children by employing various strategies which ensures that the rate of eating is slowed, the eating time and place is limited, physical activities, limiting food intake, among others by use of incentives. This results into desirable behaviours (Epstein et al., 1987).
The best and more widespread solution to childhood obesity is sport. That is because children obesity can get results faster than any another way and sports help in burning more calories. Moreover, they are many kinds of sport can anyone do, for instance, walking, running and playing football. After that the parents should pay attention to their children’s food. Also diet factor help in decreasing weight but needs a particular system. If there is any mistake that is a negative effect. On the other hand, a few people do a doctor consult but they need to consult a doctor to tell them about reasons of their weight increase. Also education does not give obesity great importance. Although the education of children about healthy food so education has a positive effect on children. The worst solution is surgical. That is because there are dangers on patients who get rid of obesity by surgical means. Finally, there are three things which should be connected together to protect the children from the risk of obesity. These are parents paying attention about their children, sports and diet.
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