Excess Weight in Children: What You Should Know

The main cause of excess weight in children is lifestyle, characterized by poor eating habits and little physical activity. Parents play an important role in this. Rather than giving them new guidelines, they should encourage them and transmit new patterns by setting an example.
Excess Weight in Children: What You Should Know

Last update: 05 January, 2021

Excess weight in children has become a concerning phenomenon worldwide. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of obese children and adolescents has increased tenfold over the last four decades. Unfortunately, the trend continues.

This problem reveals the issue of inadequate care by parents since they’re the ones who are in charge of children’s eating patterns. Apparently, they don’t attribute enough importance to healthy nutrition or fail to establish healthy parameters to feed their children.

Today’s lifestyles also have a significant influence on this phenomenon. Excess weight in children is often due to the sedentary life that the children and teens are leading. On many occasions, they’ve replaced sports and physical play for entertainment that comes from electronic devices.

How to identify excess weight in children

A toddler biting into a fried chicken sandwich.

It’s not so easy for parents to determine when their children are overweight. The growth process causes children’s bodies to continually change. What’s more, the volume of body fat is also constantly changing and is different in boys and girls.

The most reliable way to know if children are overweight is by calculating their body mass index (BMI). This is a measurement of body weight in relation to height. Some several websites and applications allow you to make this calculation. All you need to know is the child’s age, weight, and height.

The result of the BMI is a number that’s then compared to the BMI of other children of the same age, thus obtaining the percentile:

  • A percentile from 5 to 84 suggests that the weight is normal and healthy.
  • Between 85 and 94, we’re talking about excess weight in children.
  • A percentile of 95 or more indicates obesity.

Causes of the problem

The main cause of excess weight and obesity in children is the lack of adequate guidelines from parents. Parents have less and less time for their children and take on habits that are unhealthy. For example, giving them fast food has been shown to be harmful to their health in the medium term.

Parents also lack enough time and dedication to teaching their children how to eat healthily. This involves eating at certain times and consuming foods that may not be as attractive to them, but that are indispensable for their normal growth and development.

Added to this is the lack of physical activity in children and adolescents. Currently, most activities are concentrated around television, video games, and the computer. This sedentary lifestyle, together with bad eating habits, forms the ideal framework for excess weight in children to appear.

Risks of excess weight in children

An overweight child eating donuts while sitting on the couch and watching TV.

Excess weight in children makes them more prone to disease, according to a study published in the journal Circulation Research. They’re more likely to be overweight in adulthood, with all the consequences this implies.

Likewise, obese children are at greater risk for musculoskeletal problems. Lower back pain and changes in the lumbar spine and lower extremities are frequent. Walking can be affected and there’s a greater probability of orthopedic problems.

Similarly, it’s been shown that these children are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. That’s not counting the psychological effects that this condition produces. Many times, overweight children are teased and bullied by their peers at school.

Prevention and care

Parents should be aware of the importance of developing appropriate eating patterns. It’s important that they make nutritious foods available and that they keep their children away from junk food, as well as from carbonated and highly processed or sugary drinks.

Parents should set an example for their children. If they eat healthily, their children will probably start to imitate them spontaneously. It’s also important to talk to children about the importance of healthy nutrition.

They also need to encourage children to be physically active. The best way to do this is to invite them to share some time in the park, or to encourage them to practice some sport. Healthy habits should be promoted as a family and the best tool is by example.

Preventing excess weight in children to improve health

Preventing excess weight and obesity is a good way to ensure proper health. Nutritional education from the early stages of life becomes essential when the goal is to prevent weight gain in the medium and long term.

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