Childhood Obesity, a Big Problem

November 5, 2019
Childhood obesity is associated with numerous future health problems, such as obesity and high cholesterol. Read on to learn more!

Currently, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health problems. It’s a worldwide phenomenon and its incidence is gradually increasing. It’s a condition that’s associated with countries such as the United States. However, it also affects smaller and lower-income countries. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that approximately 42 million children under the age of five suffer from childhood obesity.

Obesity is a disease that not only affects aesthetics. In fact, it has serious health repercussions. For example, children who suffer from it are more likely to suffer from diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases throughout their lives.

In the society we live in, it seems difficult for children to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow a good diet. However, we must strive to eliminate this problem. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about childhood obesity.

What is childhood obesity?

A child biting into a hamburger.

Childhood obesity is the most common nutrition-related disorder at this stage of life. It consists of the excessive accumulation of body fat, which puts the child’s health at risk.

It’s a disease that involves many factors; it doesn’t only depend on nutrition. In fact, genetics and physical activity are also two major determinants. However, a poor diet is one of the main culprits of this disease. Currently, people abuse of energy-dense foods with high percentages of saturated fats.

In short, childhood obesity is a combination of an unbalanced diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and genetics, among other factors. As we mentioned above, it’s important to know that this disease is associated with numerous health problems, including diabetes.

How to know if a child is obese

Childhood obesity isn’t diagnosed by appearance. Instead, it’s calculated by a parameter called ‘Body Mass Index,’ or BMI. BMI relates weight to height and is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters) squared.

Many tables and references compare BMI with standard levels to know whether a child suffers from obesity or not. However, in children, it’s more accurate to use percentiles curves for comparison.

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The risk factors for developing childhood obesity

As we mentioned above, this disease doesn’t only depend on the child’s diet. Indeed, numerous factors intervene, such as:

  • Genetics. Numerous studies have linked overweight parents with overweight children, stating that if one parent is obese, the child is three times more likely to become obese. However, it’s difficult to differentiate whether it’s due to a shared lifestyle or genetics.
  • Birth weight. Scientists relate the fact of babies who weigh more than 9 pounds at birth with childhood or adult obesity.
  • Interestingly, breastfeeding a baby during their first year of life seems to be associated with a lower risk of this disease in childhood.
  • Birthplace. This is because a child who lives in a rural area seems to have a more active lifestyle, while those who grow up in the city are more prone to physical inactivity.

This condition is even associated with other factors such as sleep or the family’s economic level. However, we must be clear that the key to addressing this problem is to focus on the child’s lifestyle.

A child playing soccer.

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How to reduce the risk of this obesity

This disease can affect the rest of a child’s life. This is because, in addition to affecting self-esteem and aesthetics, it leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic problems.

Therefore, it’s essential to act and seek ways to help children follow a healthy diet. If you don’t know how to do it, it’s best to consult a doctor or nutritionist.

Also, it’s ideal for children to stay active. Introducing sports into their daily routine should be one of the first steps. In fact, this will also help the child improve their social skills and allows them to have fun.

  • Yeste, D., & Carrascosa, A. (2012). El manejo de la obesidad en la infancia y adolescencia: de la dieta a la cirugía. Anales de Pediatría, 77(2), 71–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anpedi.2012.03.010
  • Obesidad infantil. (2011). OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2011-en
  • Zayas Torriente, G. M., Chiong Molina, D., Díaz, Y., Torriente Fernández, A., & Herrera Argüelles, X. (1946). Revista cubana de pediatría: La obesidad infantil. Revista Cubana de Pediatría (Vol. 74). Centro Nacional de Informacion de Ciencias Medicas. Retrieved from http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=s0034-75312002000300007