How Common Is Childhood Obesity Or Is It A Rare Problem?
Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate and is a serious global health concern. While reaching the age of attending primary school, every 5th child in the world is either obese or overweight. This number goes up to every 3rd child when they reach secondary school. It is projected that about half of the children in the world will be obese or overweight by 2020.
So, childhood obesity is becoming a common problem day by day and it cannot be considered as a rare disorder.(1)(2)
Factors Responsible For Childhood Obesity
There are many factors that contribute to obesity in children and adolescents – some are variable and some are not. Obesity in children and teenagers is a serious issue that often continues into adulthood, with many health and social consequences. Obtaining a better understanding of treatment is important for youth to prevent and control the problem of obesity.
Many parents are concerned about their child’s weight and how it affects them. They look for specific answers to options for prevention and treatment. What are the best strategies to prevent this? Do the treatments work long term?
Researchers are trying to answer these questions. In many cases, common sense works well. In situations where there are a serious health, psychological and serious problems, parents should seek the best advice.(3)(4)
Variable Reasons For Childhood Obesity
Low Physical Activity: Lack of regular exercise and outdoor sports in children
Sedentary Behavior: High frequency of viewing television, using computers or smartphones for video watching or gaming, and similar behavior taking the time that can be used for physical activity.
Socioeconomic Status: Higher family income brings convenience (use of cars, elevators, indoor activities, having more processed and high-calorie junk foods).
Eating Habits: Excess intake of high-calorie foods is detrimental for health and can cause obesity. Some eating patterns that are associated with this behavior are eating when there is no appetite, eating while watching TV, or doing homework.
Social Environment: Some factors such as viewing advertisements that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.
Genetics: Children of obese and overweight parents have been found to have a greater risk of obesity.(5)
Prevention Of Childhood Obesity
Prevention should begin in childhood. Treatment or reversing obesity becomes more difficult in adults compared to infants and children. It is important to teach healthy behavior at a young age as change becomes more difficult with age. Physical activity and nutrition-related behavior is the cornerstone of preventing obesity in children and adolescents. Family and school are the two most important links in proving the foundation of those behaviors. For children, they often take their parents as role models in life.
Involving the whole family is also a motivating factor. Weight control programs that include both parents and children have shown improvement in long-term effectiveness compared to directing the program to the child only.(6)
Treatments For Childhood Obesity
Therapy for obesity in childhood is focused on associated conditions and the age of your child. Treatment usually involves changes in your child’s diet and physical activity. In some circumstances, treatment can include medication or weight loss surgery.
Treatment For Children Under 7 Years Of Age: For children under 7 years old who have no other health concerns, the goal of treatment can be weight maintenance rather weight loss. This strategy allows the child to add inches in height but not pounds, causing BMI-for-age to decrease over time to a healthier area. However, for an overweight child, maintaining weight while waiting to grow taller can be as difficult as losing weight is for the elderly.
Treatment For Children 7 Years And Older: Weight loss is usually recommended for children older than 7 or for younger children who have related health concerns. Weight loss should be slow and steady – anywhere from 1 pound (over 0.5 kg) a week to 1 pound a month, depending on your child’s condition.
The methods for caring for your child’s current weight or losing weight are the same: your child needs to eat a healthy diet and increase his or her physical activity. Success depends heavily on your commitment to helping your child make these changes. Think of eating habits and lack of exercise as two sides of the same coin: considering one, you have to look at the other.(6)
- Skinner AC, Ravanbakht SN, Skelton JA, Perrin EM, Armstrong SC. Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999–2016. Pediatrics. 2018;141(3):e20173459.
- Mirza NM, Yanovski JA. Prevalence and consequences of pediatric obesity. Handbook of Obesity: Epidemiology, Etiology, and Physiopathology; Bray, GA, Bouchard, C., Eds. 2019:55-74.
- Williams EP, Mesidor M, Winters K, Dubbert PM, Wyatt SB. Overweight and obesity: prevalence, consequences, and causes of a growing public health problem. Current obesity reports. 2015;4(3):363-370.
- Chung A, Backholer K, Wong E, Palermo C, Keating C, Peeters A. Trends in child and adolescent obesity prevalence in economically advanced countries according to socioeconomic position: a systematic review. Obesity reviews. 2016;17(3):276-295.
- Sahoo K, Sahoo B, Choudhury AK, Sofi NY, Kumar R, Bhadoria AS. Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. Journal of family medicine and primary care. 2015;4(2):187.
- Wadden TA, Bray GA. Handbook of obesity treatment. Guilford Publications; 2018.
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