Childhood Obesity

January 14, 2013 | Author: | Posted in Family and Parenting, Health and Fitness

Health authorities in the UK and America have talked about the prevalence of obesity in children reaching catastrophic proportions unless new legislation designed to control weight-gain and also enforced weight-loss in children (by parents) is passed.

In this article:

What is obesity in childhood?

Symptoms

Causes

Diagnosis & Where to take things from there

Advice & Support

What is obesity in childhood?
Obesity in childhood is widespread, not only in the UK but also worldwide. This is a major concern for health authorities, schools and, of course, parents everywhere. In fact, many parents talk of there being almost a complete role reversal within the realm of family relationships – their efforts to try to get their children to maintain a healthy lifestyle through combining a nutritious balanced diet with regular exercise often being rejected out of hand by their child/children. ‘House Rules’ relating to offspring adopting a healthy lifestyle become unenforceable. This leads to childhood weight-gain, obesity and the associated symptoms.

Symptoms
Obesity in children is an issue that the Department of Health has prioritised. However, there is much confusion – particularly amongst parents and carers – as to what classifies a child as being obese, rather than overweight.

Simply put, if excess body fat is at a level where it affects your child’s actual health, then they are considered to be obese.

Symptoms of obesity in childhood include:

Excessive sweating

Fatigue

Lethargy

An inability to manage tasks and/or activities which require physical activity in sudden bursts

Causes
Causes of obesity can include:

The combination of a poor diet (that is high in fat and fast carbohydrates) and a lack of exercise. These days, children have a much higher sugar intake than previous generations were allowed to enjoy – with sugary drinks, sweets, cakes, biscuits, etc., often ‘replacing’ square meals

The increasing prevalence of sedentary lifestyles among children. This can be due to a reduced focus upon the importance of sport and games at school, and also the widespread popularity of computer games which involve very little physical exercise or exertion at all

Fast food (eaten regularly) becoming part of modern culture as something to eat regularly and a popular place to meet friends, rather than the local park to play a game of football or rounders, for example.

Latest generation children having a stronger ‘voice’ compared to previous generations, allowing them to be more in control of their lifestyle choices with regard to diet and the participation in exercise activities (or not). Many parents (particularly single parents) feel they have ‘lost control’ of their children and that there has almost been a role-reversal with regard to who is the dominant figure when it comes to child raising, behaviour, availing of choice…

Sleep may also be a contributing factor to the escalating prevalence of obesity in children. Again, due to children having more say over their lives, they are staying up later and therefore sleeping less than previous generations. This change in sleeping habits can impact upon the behaviour of hormones in the body which are linked to the part of the brain which controls hunger levels – therefore possibly leading children to eat more, due to sleeping less, and their bodies becoming ‘confused’ as a result

Note: It is important to point out that not all children who are obese have become so due to the aforementioned factors. In some cases, medical reasons can play a part in obesity, such as excessive production of steroid hormones in the body, underactive thyroid, metabolic syndrome and familial obesity.

With familial obesity, this is where a child may have a genetic predisposition to being obese. The propensity to being obese and being unable to lose excess body weight through combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is already in the family and has been passed down.

Diagnosis & Where to take things from there
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, and they are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, make an appointment with your GP.

After taking your child’s medical history, and asking them (and you as their parent or guardian) some questions about symptoms and lifestyle, your child’s body mass index will then be checked: Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement used to calculate if your child is of a healthy weight in accordance with their height. By dividing their weight (in kilograms) by their height (in metres) then dividing the answer by your child’s height again (in metres) you arrive at your child’s body mass index – the ‘correct weight’ your child should be.

Your GP may also take your child’s waist measurement.

It is important to note that establishing body mass index is not the only approach to assessing if your child is overweight. Your GP will also take into account whether your child is simply ‘growing up’; and therefore they may have excess body fat or ‘puppy fat’ that is usually considered to be perfectly natural for a child at that age. Your child should lose this excess body fat as a normal part of growing up.

You and your child will then be advised upon sensible lifestyle changes to adopt, with a strong focus upon combining a balanced diet with regular exercise.

Advice & Support
British Nutrition Foundation
Website: www.nutrition.org.uk

Food Standards Agency
Website: www.eatwell.goiv.uk

www.chemistonline.co.uk

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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