Understanding The Causes Of Childhood Obesity & How To Prevent It

by Dr Jonathan D'Souza
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. Childhood obesity directly results from caloric imbalance and is affected by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Obese children and adolescents are at an increased risk for bone and joint problems, heart disease, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems, such as poor self-esteem and stigmatization. Obese children are also more likely to become obese as adults, which will put them at risk of different types of cancer, including cancer of the thyroid, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreas.

What Causes Obesity In Children?
Children put on excessive weight for a variety of reasons. Genetic factors, unhealthy eating patterns, lack of exercise, or a combination of these could result in weight gain. Weight gain can also sometimes be caused by hormonal problems. Blood tests and a physical examination can help rule out the possibility of a medical condition as the cause for obesity.

Children whose siblings or parents are overweight are at an increased risk of becoming overweight. This could also be the result of shared family eating and activity behaviors.

A child's eating habits and level physical activity play a vital role in determining the child's weight. Many children spend an average of four hours watching television daily, making them inactive. The popularity of computer and video games can also make a child inactive.

Here is a video that explains the need for nutrition education in kids.

Tips For Preventing Childhood Obesity
Parents can play a vital role in preventing childhood obesity by providing healthy meals and snacks, encouraging daily physical activity, and nutrition education. Healthy snacks and meals not only provide nutrition for growing bodies, but also model healthy eating behavior. An increase in physical activity can help control weight gain and reduce health risks. Nutrition education involves preparing nutritious foods with the kids and encouraging them to make healthier food choices. 

Children can be taught to adopt healthy eating habits and to be physically active when the parents:

1. Focus on overall health and not just a specific weight goal. Include healthy, positive attitudes towards food, wellness, and physical activity without highlighting weight.

2. Do not set overweight children apart. Involve the entire family in making better food choices and work to gradually change the family's eating habits and physical activity.

3. Fix daily snack and meal times. Eat together as frequently as possible. Often, eating at irregular intervals. Since fast foods can be a primary reason for weight gain, home-cooked meals are in general a healthier choice, especially if you are cautious of the oil content and sugar used in foods.

4. Encourage your child to take part in outdoor sports. This will allow him to socialize and enjoy that much-needed workout.

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