Body size is a very sensitive matter, especially for adolescents and children. They don’t want to be touched much on this matter. But, obesity and excess weight are linked to future cardiovascular and type 2 diabetes and may threaten the good health of these individuals. So, if you wish good future health for your child, you must pay attention to his/her obesity.(1)
What Are The First Symptoms Of Childhood Obesity?
The majority of children with obesity (95% or more) have no underlying illness and simply have excess energy stored as extra fat in their bodies. This usually results due to the high energy intake that exceeds the energy consumption or expenditure considerably. This is called simple obesity (primary obesity).
The causes of obesity seem simple in this way. But then, when you figure out why your child is eating too much, and why only some people get fat while others may not even after having a similar diet and eating habits, you may understand that the cause of obesity is not so simple.
Obesity in children is increasing every year and increased about 2-3 times compared to 30 years ago, with 5-12% of children are becoming obese. It has been noticed that obesity peaks for boys at 11 years and girls at 12 years of age group.(1,2)
How Do You Test For Childhood Obesity?
Currently, childhood obesity is determined by the balance between height and weight. Obesity is a measure of what percentage your child is over his/her standard weight. But the problem is setting and calculating the standard weight for your child.
Expressed as “obesity level”, Obesity (%) = (actually measured weight – standard weight) / (standard weight) x 100.
The standard weight is calculated based on age, gender, and height. The ethnicity of the individual also plays a major role. You will find the standard weight chart according to age, height, sex, and ethnicity published by the health department of your country and calculates the standard weight of your child from it.(2)
Obesity % > 20% = your child is obese
- Mild obesity: 20-30%
- Moderate obesity: 30-50%
- Severe obesity: 50% or more
Reasons Behind The Increase In Childhood Obesity
- Convenience stores and fast-food restaurants have made it easy to buy meals anytime, anywhere
- The shift from outdoor play to indoor games (video, computer or smartphone games), reduced walking opportunities and increased travel by car
- Changes in the timing of the meals and lifestyles (children sleeping late at night and waking up late)(3)
Problems With Childhood Obesity
Obesity is generally asymptomatic. As obesity progresses, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension are more likely to occur, as in adults. As the disease progresses further, arteriosclerosis occurs and the chance of myocardial infarction increases significantly.
What is unique about children is that they are susceptible to hurdles and trauma of everyday life, including learning problems. Skin streaks, fractures and joint disorders due to obesity, menstrual abnormalities, decreased running and jumping abilities is some of the problems these children face in everyday life.
For a child, it is a big problem to cope with. To make matters worse, it is often the case that children who are obese in childhood are more likely to be obese in their transition to puberty and even may suffer from adult obesity.(3)(4)
Obesity during infancy is accompanied by an increase in the number of fat cells, increasing the chance to become obese as an adult. But, it may not be always true. Even children who gain weight in infancy and weigh more than 10 kg by the age of one year usually become thinner as soon as they start walking. Therefore, there is no need to treat obesity in infancy (until your child reaches one year).
Obesity in infancy does not have to be a particular problem, but it can’t be left alone when a child is about three years old and still remain obese.
Preventing childhood obesity until puberty will prevent future development of different metabolic syndromes.
Common ways to deal with this problem are:
- Improving the lifestyle (It is important to get up early in the night and eat three meals properly)
- Diet (avoid fatty foods, binge eating, fast-foods, processed foods, juices, soft drinks, etc.)
- Exercise (make your child involve in outdoor activities and sports, limit the use of smartphones and watching TVs)
- Medication (always consult your pediatrician before giving any medication to your child related to controlling obesity)(3,5)
- Han JC, Lawlor DA, Kimm SY. Childhood obesity. The lancet. 2010;375(9727):1737-1748.
- Kumar S, Kelly AS. Review of childhood obesity: from epidemiology, etiology, and comorbidities to clinical assessment and treatment. Paper presented at: Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2017.
- 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.
- Freemark MS. Pediatric obesity: Etiology, pathogenesis and treatment. Springer; 2018.
- Wadden TA, Bray GA. Handbook of obesity treatment. Guilford Publications; 2018.