Childhood Obesity: Causes And Complications You Should Know
Raising healthy children means making healthy lifestyle choices for them which also includes preventing obesity as it can pose health risks for them now or in the future.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 39 million children under the age of 5 were obese in 2020. Back in 2026, over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight in 2016.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems; diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
Factors That Contribute To Childhood Obesity
Genetics can play a role in what children weigh. Our genes help determine body type and how the body stores and burns fat. However, genes alone can’t explain the current obesity crisis. Because both genes and habits are passed down from one generation to the next, multiple members of a family may struggle with weight.
Diet and Lifestyle
Much of what we eat is quick and easy, from fat-filled fast food to processed and prepackaged meals. Daily schedules are so busy that there is little time to make healthier meals or to squeeze in some exercise. Portion sizes, in the home and out, are too large. Children spend more time playing with electronic devices than actively playing outside. Children who watch TV over 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight compared with children who watch 2 hours or fewer. Children who have TV in the bedroom also are more likely to be overweight.
Lack Of Physical Activity
Many children don’t get enough physical activity. Older children and teens should get 1 hour or more of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, including aerobic and muscle- and bone-strengthening activities. Children aged 2 to 5 years should play actively several times each day.
Childhood Obesity Complications
• Type 2 diabetes. This chronic condition affects the way your child’s body uses sugar (glucose). Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
• High cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet can cause your child to develop one or both conditions. These factors can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, which can cause arteries to narrow and harden, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke later in life.
• Joint pain. Extra weight causes extra stress on the hips and knees. Childhood obesity can cause pain and sometimes injuries in the hips, knees and back.
• Breathing problems. Asthma is more common in children who are overweight. These children are also more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder in which a child’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
• Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disorder, which usually causes no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver. NAFLD can lead to scarring and liver damage.
How To Prevent Excess Weight Gain
What you can do to prevent excess weight gain in your child. You can:
• Set a good example. Make healthy eating and regular physical activity a family affair. Everyone will benefit and no one will feel singled out.
• Have healthy snacks available. Options include air-popped popcorn without butter, fruits with low-fat yoghurt, baby carrots with hummus, or whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
• Offer new foods multiple times. Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t immediately like a new food. It usually takes multiple exposures to food to gain acceptance.
• Choose non-food rewards.
• Be sure your child gets enough sleep. Some studies indicate that too little sleep may increase the risk of obesity. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to increased appetite.
In conclusion, the best way to help your child’s live a healthy lifestyle is to be a role model by eating well, exercising regularly, and building healthy habits into your own daily life.