Obesity in children is a serious medical condition in which a child has excessive body fat that can negatively impact their health. This is a growing problem worldwide, with the World Health Organization reporting that there is a progressive rise in the prevalence of overweight and obese children.

Studies indicate that childhood obesity has the highest prevalence rates in developed countries; however, it is emerging convincingly that its prevalence is increasing in developing countries as well. Because of hormonal differences, females are more likely to be obese than males.

Obesity in children is a significant concern as the extra pounds can lead to potential health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. It can also have a profound impact on the child’s emotional well-being, and lead to mental health issues such as poor self-esteem and depression. There is supporting evidence that it is also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life experienced by the child.

Additionally, obese children are at a higher risk of becoming obese adults, which increases their risk of developing chronic non-communicable diseases later in life.

In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes of obesity in children, the associated health risks, and strategies to prevent and manage obesity.

Symptoms of obesity

Aside from being overweight, typical signs and symptoms of childhood obesity include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fatigue
  • Increased perspiration
  • Snoring and sleep apnea
  • Joint discomfort
  • Hip dislocation
  • Hip, abdomen, and back stretch marks (although these can occur in non-obese children as well)
  • Fat In the breast area (which can be particularly challenging for boys)
  • Constipation
  • Early puberty in girls
  • Delayed Puberty in boys

Causes of obesity in children

  • Poor diet: It is widely accepted that obesity results from consuming a diet high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt. More and more evidence points to sugary drinks, including fruit juices, sports drinks, fast foods, and processed foods as culprits in obesity.
  • Sedentary behaviour: At the most basic level, children—like adults—develop obesity when they do not participate in regular physical activity. As technology advances, many children are watching TV while eating, which is associated with a higher intake of fat.
  • Genetics: There is increasing evidence indicating that an individual’s genetic background can also contribute to childhood obesity. If a child has a family history of obesity, he or she is more likely to become overweight.
  • Sleep deprivation: According to research, sleep deprivation may contribute to childhood obesity. Sleep deprivation can disrupt the hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite.

Health risks related to Obesity in children

Obesity in children can lead to a range of health problems, both in childhood and later in life. Some of the health issues include:

Physical Consequences  

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Orthopaedic problems
  • Asthma
  • Cholelithiasis (gallstones)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Skin conditions
  • Early puberty

Emotional Consequences

  • Social isolation and bullying
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-confidence
  • Negative body
  • Depression

It’s important to note that the severity of the risks can vary depending on the degree of obesity and other health factors. Therefore, it’s crucial to work with a healthcare professional to figure out if your child’s weight could pose health problems.

Prevention of obesity in children

  • Encourage your child to consume a diet rich in:
    • Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
    • Low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, instead of soda and other drinks with added sugars.
    • Protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans.
  • Encourage your child to participate in physical activities, such as sports or outdoor play.
  • Limit your child’s time spent in front of screens.
  • Be a role model and set a good example for your child by eating healthily and staying physically active yourself.
  • Discourage your child from using devices or watching TV while eating.
  • Research indicates that sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to increased appetite, thereby increasing the risk of obesity. Ensure that your child gets 8 hours of quality sleep everyday.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, childhood obesity is a serious health concern that can have a devastating impact on children and adolescents. By understanding the causes and risks of obesity in children and taking steps to prevent it, we can help our children live healthy and happy lives.

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