Childhood Obesity

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What is the prevalence of obesity?
Obesity is a rising health problem especially among urban children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were about 1.6 billion overweight adults aged 15 years and above and at least 400 million adults are obese worldwide in 2005. It is a serious public health problem that is growing in countries with low or middle income. According to IOTF (International Obesity Task Force), estimated prevalence rate of obesity could reach 45% to 50% in the USA, 30% to 40% in Australia, England and Mauritius and more than 20% in Brazil by 2025. Developing countries like India, face the double burden of obesity and under nutrition. The worldwide prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010 and is expected to reach 9.1% or 60 million, in 2020. A study done at AIIMS (Delhi) has shown such prevalence to be around 20 percent among school going children of Delhi.

Why is the prevalence increasing?
Increased and easy availability of junk food, provision of such food in school canteens, decreased physical activity, unrestricted TV watching and indoor games, lack of space for outdoor games are few of the reasons for rising prevalence of obesity in children.

What are other causes responsible for making someone obese?

There are various endocrinological disorders which can lead to obesity. Usually these disorders are
associated with compromised height, so if a child is not growing in height but has excessive weight, their
parent should consult endocrinologist as early as possible to avoid the child losing on his adult height. There are some familial disorders associated with obesity and early recognition of these diseases may prove helpful for future generations.

What are the consequences of childhood obesity?

Obesity, never is a lone issue. Rather, it leads to further health related problems like hypertension, increased predisposition to diabetes, heart diseases and breathing difficulties and poor scholastic performance.

What can I do if my child is obese?

It is advisable to watch your child’s height and weight and closely monitor the growth of your child preferably using the growth charts that are valid for your ethic population. Any deviation from the
growth chart should make you alert that there is something wrong with the diet or physical activity of child. Discouraging sedentary lifestyle by prohibiting prolonged hours of watching TV or working on
computer and encouraging your child to go out indulge in phyhsical activity like swimming, dancing,
playing outdoor games will lead to development of a physically active lifestyle in a child would decrease
probability of your child becoming obese. Also, consulting an endocrinologist to rule out endocrinological disorders and also following up regularly to keep a tab on child`s weight would be necessary if the lifestyle
modifications do not work for your child. Lastly, it is the environment provided to child which makes him obese. Everyone associated with the child, including parents and society are responsible for this emerging and potentially serious childhood problem. And it is with parents’ whole hearted efforts by keeping a tab on their child’s growth and their active involvement in inculcating a physically active lifestyle in their child, that can help us avert obesity from becoming an emerging epidemic.

Dr Vineet Surana
Consultant Endocrinology & Metabolism

Author: KV Labs

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