Childhood obesity, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the most important public health issues in recent years. Obesity can negatively impact a child’s cardiovascular, muscular, respiratory, and digestive systems. It has a significant social, emotional, and psychological impact on people and affects the hormones that determine maturity and blood glucose levels in children. Obese children and adolescents are more likely to carry these lifestyle diseases into their maturity, putting them at greater risk of disease, disability, and premature death.
Factors Associated With Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is a complicated health problem. When a child is extremely overweight or obese for his or her age and height, it is termed childhood obesity.
Excessive weight gain in children and adolescents is caused by the same factors that cause it in adults, such as behavior and heredity. Childhood obesity can affect the body in different ways. Children suffering from this may have a higher risk of developing:
- Complications such as type 2 diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and insulin resistance
- Breathing issues such as asthma and sleeping disorder
- Musculoskeletal discomfort and joint issues
- Gallstones, fatty liver disease, and gastro-oesophageal reflux
Obesity in children can also lead to:
- Psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety and melancholy.
- Low self-esteem and a lower standard of living.
- Social issues like bullying and assault.
What Are The Risk Factors For Childhood Obesity?
Diet, physical exercise, and sedentary behavior are all risk factors for childhood obesity. Variables like age and gender reduce the influence of such risk factors. The parenting style of the parents, as well as their lifestyles, play a part in this. Food and physical activity habits are influenced by a variety of factors, including the education system, demographics, and parents’ employment requirements. Several factors have been identified that significantly enhance a child’s risk of becoming obese even before he/she is born. It includes,
- The mother’s health during pregnancy
Insulin resistance drives excessive growth of fetal adipocytes. In fact, maternal insulin resistance foresees newborn weight gain between the ages of 0 and 12. When a pregnant woman’s body has developed beyond insulin resistance and has developed glucose intolerance, her offspring’s risk of obesity increases even more. The risk of childhood obesity is highest when a child is born to a mother who has gestational diabetes and is overweight. When a woman’s blood sugar levels rise during pregnancy, the fetal body produces more insulin, which boosts fetal growth and birth weight.
- C-section deliveries
C-section births are more common among obese people and people who live lethargic, sedentary lifestyles. Even in mothers who do not have gestational diabetes, higher birth weight is substantially linked to childhood obesity. Things like maternal stress, antibiotic use, smoking, and food can all affect early newborn gut colonization.
- Exposure to antibiotics
Early-life antibiotic exposure and childhood obesity are interconnected. Antibiotics are more likely to be given to pregnant women who are overweight, and antibiotic therapy is highest with C-section deliveries. Antibiotics have the greatest impact on a child’s weight when given before the age of six months. This has a significant impact on gut flora, as well as disrupting a person’s immunological defenses at the intestinal boundary and affecting mitochondria, which are crucial for energy metabolism.
After birth, what happens to a child’s body is likely to play an even bigger influence in the development of juvenile obesity. Unfortunately, studying and measuring these things is far more difficult and complex. Because human actions and patterns do not remain consistent throughout a child’s growth, determining cause and effect will be far more challenging. However, there are a few things that are associated with childhood obesity:
- Genetics is one of the most important factors being researched as a cause of obesity.
- Obesity is also associated with a rise in basal metabolic rate. Obese people have lower basal metabolic rates than people who are not obese.
- Obesity has recently been linked to an increase in fast food consumption. Fast food meals are often high in calories and nutritionally deficient.
- Early sugar consumption has been found to increase a person’s liking for sweet foods later in life. Sugary drinks are another factor that has been explored as a possible link to obesity.
- Snack food consumption has also been investigated as a possible contributor to childhood obesity. Snack foods include chips, baked goods, and sweets.
- Infants who are fed formula have a higher risk of childhood obesity than those who are provided breast milk. Early supplemental food introduction is also linked to an increased risk of obesity.
- Obesity in offspring is linked to maternal and paternal diets high in simple carbohydrates and low in fruits and vegetables.
- An increased risk of childhood obesity has been linked to coercive or reward feeding.
- Obesity rates are higher in children who get little sleep and physical activity.
Childhood Obesity And Its Consequences
Obesity significantly affects children’s physical health, social and emotional wellbeing, and self-esteem. It’s also linked to low academic performance and a drop in the child’s overall quality of life.
✳ Physical consequence
Obesity in children has been linked to a variety of health problems, including metabolic, cardiovascular, orthopedic, neurological, hepatic, pulmonary, and renal disorders. While the majority of the physical health issues associated with childhood obesity are treatable and can be resolved if the child or adolescent loses weight, some of them persist into adulthood.
✳ Social and emotional consequence
Obesity in children and adolescents has a negative impact on their social and emotional wellbeing. Obese children are usually harassed and ridiculed due to their weight. They also confront a slew of other challenges, such as unfavorable attitudes, discrimination, and isolation from society.
✳ Academic consequence
Obese children are frequently rejected from physical activities because they are slower than their classmates and suffer from shortness of breath and find it difficult to stay up with their peers. These negative social issues in children can lead to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a bad body image, as well as affecting academic achievement. Obesity has also been linked to poor academic performance in children, as they are more likely to miss school.
How To Prevent Childhood Obesity?
Obesity prevention in children is critical, especially when it is difficult to manage obesity. Obesity prevention measures that have been proven and are easy to implement include:
- Increase fruit and vegetable consumption
- Reducing the amount of time spent watching television. Excessive food consumption is frequently caused by eating while watching television. Children are also influenced by television advertising to eat fast food.
- Sugar consumption should be reduced. Instead of sugary drinks, water is recommended.
- Encourage children to engage in physical activity. Due to a lack of time and academic constraints, it is difficult to ensure that children live active lives. Parents should encourage young children to participate in physical activity.
Addressing childhood obesity is critical for reducing long-term risk and protecting health. Obesity and overweight can be prevented more effectively with community-based nutrition and physical activity strategy. Furthermore, many obesity problems could be averted if parents advocate a better lifestyle at home. This will have the greatest impact on children, and they follow healthy food habits at school and fast-food restaurants. It may be easier to eliminate childhood obesity and promote a healthy society by focusing on these factors.
Lacey Arlo is a wellness expert and a nutritionist who aims to help members with health and diet queries. Lacey Arlo has worked with junior, national, and Olympic-level athletes by providing them with customizing programmers, supplement strategies, and support during their travel and competition. From weight management, PCOD, thyroid-related weight loss, and nutrition for children to diets for pregnant and diets for senior citizens, She offers nutrition-aided solutions for different age groups with consideration for each person’s unique health demands.