For centuries our focus has been on ensuring children get the best to eat. With changing times and diet, however, the quality of food hasn’t always stayed the highest. Junk food, physical inactivity with genetic influences, has led to a rise in childhood obesity. Are overweight children at similar risks as adults? Does childhood obesity contribute to heart disease, stroke and hypertension in later years?

Excess weight in childhood

Various factors can contribute to childhood obesity. The most common reasons include unhealthy eating patterns, lack of exercise and genetics. In rare cases, hormonal or metabolic conditions may be the underlying cause and can be ruled out. The prevalence of childhood obesity is at an all-time high as children spend less time outdoors, have easier access to fast food and processed snacks.

What are the consequences of childhood obesity?

Obesity in children translates to greater risk of many diseases as adults. It can also lead to certain diseases like Diabetes during childhood itself. Obesity in the teen years can result in death at younger age. Moreover, earlier onset of obesity is linked to more severe disease. They are at greater risk for a number of conditions, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Early onset Coronary Artery Disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Certain cancers, such as Endometrial, Breast and Colon
  • Gallstones

In addition, deposition of fat around the abdomen poses greater risk for conditions like metabolic syndrome, a constellation of symptoms including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a large waist size.

What can be done?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend certain measures to prevent excess weight gain in children. Restriction of sugary beverages and fast food, along with more family meal times and regular breakfast, are healthy patterns of eating. Children should be allowed no more than two hours of television per day; involve them in sports or other fun physical activities. If you have a history of obesity or related diseases in the family, let your doctor know, and watch over your children’s weight.

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