Childhood obesity: Don’t be late to protect your child from it!

The World Health Organization defines childhood obesity as a global epidemic. The obesity observed in children and adolescents in both developed and developing countries is the most common nutritional problem that
is faced in society widely and increasing rapidly.
Body fat in children and adolescents shows differences
according to growth and sex. Before making an assessment, it is necessary to
calculate the body mass index (BMI) by measuring the height and the weight of
the individual. This calculation is simple and can be done by everyone.
Body mass index =
Weight (kg) ÷ Height (cm)²
In the pre-school period, the body mass index decreases in a small amount and then begins to increase until adulthood. After calculating BMI, you can easily find what the weight
level of your child is by looking at the percentile curves. For example, if a
child is found at 95 percent, it means that 95 out of 100 children of the same
age and sex have a lower BMI than the measured one. Children who are between 85
and 95 percentile are considered to be overweight, those between 5 and 85
percent are considered normal, and those who are below 5 percentile are
accepted in the low weight class.

Possible Causes of Obesity in Children and Path to Follow

Overweight and obesity are linked to many factors, but the
most common problem is the imbalance between intake and spending of energy.
Several genetic and environmental factors have been identified which are contributing
to this process. Also, rarely, some hormonal imbalances, metabolic diseases and
musculoskeletal disorders are potential causes. Although about 10% of the obesity
is caused by genetic or hormonal disorders, it is mostly related to the
imbalance between caloric intake and expenditure. Thus, when it is considered
that there is a sharp rise in incidence of obesity, genetic and metabolic factors can not
explain the cause of obesity problem completely.

At the 95th percentile and above it, your child should be examined clinically by the pediatrician and the causes of obesity should be reviewed. In addition, if the BMI value is between 85 and 94 percentile, it should be investigated the family history, blood pressure, total cholesterol level, orthopedic problems, sudden changes in BMI, and psychosocial aspects related to weight. Since growth in children continues between the ages of 2-7 years, it is generally not recommended to lose weight by  diet which makes negative calorie balance. It is preferable to establish healthy eating and exercise habits while the child grows over time.
We must emphasize the importance of the contribution of the family to this struggle. If the body mass index is above 95 percentile in children aged 7 years and over, weight loss may be considered under the observation of an expert.

Possible Results of Child Obesity

In overweight or obese children, one of the most common problems during childhood and adolescence is impairment in psychosocial functions. Many overweight children are exposed to mocking due to their external appearance, fail to perform well in situations requiring physical activity such as team games, and keep themselves away from such activities. These psychosocial effects often lead to inactivity, and inactivity also increases obesity.

Scientific studies have shown that fat tissue is not a tissue where only unburnable energy is stored, but also some harmful molecules are released from fat tissue, and these molecules cause several diseases by affecting the cardiovascular system, hormonal balance and metabolism. These diseases include impaired glucose tolerance, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, respiratory and digestive system disorders and heart diseases. Even more remarkable is the fact that some illnesses (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) that we are used to seeing middle aged and old people are encountered even in childhood nowadays. Researchs have shown that these anomalies are increasing in adolescence and  about 29% of overweight adolescents get metabolic syndrome which is characterized by metabolic abnormalities.

Treatment and preventions

Weight-loss programs fails if parents do not feel ready for changes in the lifestyle of the child. An unsuccessful program can lead to a decrease in the self-confidence of the child, and waste of effort that will be needed for weight control in the future. For this reason, it is necessary to investigate the family members’ interest and to question the belief that weight loss is possible or not. The explanation of healthy and balanced nutrition strategies, the regulation of the appropriate physical activity schedule is absolutely essential for the prevention and treatment of obesity.

The first rule for children is that the activity must be funny, enjoyable and rewarding. It is unrealistic to expect children to have physical activity in order to be healthy. Activities that are closely related to physical inactivity (computer games, watching TV) need to be reduced. Life style of children under 10 years of age, is largely determined by family members, so activities and nutrition habits of the whole family gain importance. It may be useful to make funny  eating healthy foods(eg, to place vegetable and fruit pieces into yoghurt), and allow the child participate in food preparation. Adolescents can be given more responsibility in food preparation.

Although walking and running are recommended as exercises, they are generally not preferred by adolescents. Alternatively, dance, basketball, cycling, skating and etc. activities may be suggested. In addition, adolescents like power enhancer exercises as adults. Such exercises may also be motivating because they have a short duration of effect.
One of the recommended methods is “5 + 2 + 1” rule. This method includes the followings:
– At least five kinds of vegetables or fruits should be consumed during a day.

– Motionless time (excepting night’s sleep and homeworks) must be shorter than 2 hours.

– It must done physical activity  at least 1 hour a day.

Other healthy choices include family members sitting together at the dinner table (away from the TV) and keeping healthy vegetables and fruits instead of high-calorie snacks in the kitchen. The methods of noticing of the satiety should be taught patiently.

Please do not be late in rescue of your child from obesity.

2 thoughts on “Childhood obesity: Don’t be late to protect your child from it!”
  1. thank you for your helpful informations, but please inform us about orthorexia. me and my friends receive unconfirmed rumors about this malady and get uncomfortable.
    GOD bless you doctor Os

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