Rising obesity in children, a time bomb waiting to explode

Obesity generally is a global concern considering its effect on cardiovascular disability and death. While all attentions are on prevention of adult obesity, it seems obesity is encouraged in our children either by our actions or inactions. In 2013, 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese.
The major worry is that obesity, once considered a high-income country problem,  is now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. In developing countries with emerging economies (classified by the World Bank as lower- and middle-income countries), the rate of increase of childhood overweight and obesity has been more than 30 per cent higher than that of developed countries. Nigeria falls into this category leading to double burden; infectious diseases control plus obesity associated with non communicable diseases.
The root cause of most hypertension, diabetes mellitus, stroke and heart attacks in adults today date to childhood lifestyle. Atherosclerosis (hardening of arterial walls) has been shown to commence during childhood and obesity is the major culprit.  It makes sense to infer that if one is having hypertension, you will not pray that your children have it in future.  For God to answer this prayer, let us prevent obesity in our children! Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. Most of the world’s populations live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight.

 The size of a baby at birth, through to adolescent, has effect on his or her cardiovascular state. Low birth weight as well as excess birth weight have health implications; the best is moderate birth weight.  The race for obesity in children starts from day one, mostly influenced by the mother’s desire or pressure from the community to have chubby babies. It is common to hear people embarrass parents will moderately size babies commenting that a baby is too small and on other hand celebrate chubby babies, which makes the parents of such babies very happy. Many times, parents bring normal babies to hospital complaining of body sizes in comparison with other chubby babies of the same age group.  Let me assure you that it is not about big sizes but fitness.
I always remember the story of a set of grandchildren who visited their grandparents during vacation and grandma was quite upset that they were too skins. She rang her daughter, a medical doctor, who resides somewhere in Europe complaining she was not feeding the kids well. The kids’ mother only educated her mother not to over feed the children. It is the same with all grandmas, they tend to over feed children you keep with them. I personally love chubby babies but with the new trends of hypertension and diabetes in children, I have to change my mindset to healthy babies not chubby ones.
Implications of obesity in children
Obesity is associated with more than thirty medical conditions. Of most importance is cardiovascular diseases and sudden death. While searching for solution to obesity, it was discovered that the cause of obesity is not over eating in adulthood but over feeding in childhood. In other to dissuade excessive feeding, fork and knife is now assumed to be ‘instrument of destruction’.
Researches within Nigeria have shown that most of our children in primary and secondary schools are either overweight or obese. In America and Europe, children between age 4 and 7 were screened using Body Mass Index (BMI) and they found an increase in percentage of overweight children from 8 per cent to 21 per cent.
Obesity in children is increasing day by day with junk foods from our kitchens and other fast food joints. These children, our future hope, now grow up prone to heart problems, blood pressure, diabetes and strokes. In our country where your healthcare is in your hands, it is my prayer that nothing bad will happen to our children but let us not jeopardise their future by over feeding them. The treatment of obesity really starts in childhood. Prevention is better than cure.
How to overcome obesity in children
Right from birth, the meal can be planned toward a healthy living using different age groups. It is cheap and realisable.
Infants – Encourage exclusive breast feeding for 6 months to be combined with other meal for minimum of 18 months. Do not rush to introduce solid foods and concentrate on fortified grains and vegetables. The benefits of breast feeding for the mother and babies have been discussed on several occasions in this column.
Toddlers – take diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Less juice and sweeten beverages.
 Encourage outdoor games and enrol in schools with recreational facilities. Restrict television and videos viewing to less than one hour daily. It may be difficult but try it. Apart from disturbing their interest in studies, excessive TV viewing make them sedentary and grow fat. Separate dinning time from other activities like television watching.
School age group- as they enter school, in addition to above plan, encourage sports. Support a healthy body image, emphasising strength and fitness
Behavoural – parents should please avoid cooking special meals for kids, rather emphasize family meals, our mothers will understand this. Do not use food as reward or punishment. Do not encourage eating beyond satiety (no clean - plate syndrome). It is even amazing that some of our children are being scolded because they cannot finish meals. Let us remember that the stomach’s size of children is not same as that of adult. But at times, your children may not want to eat food for reasons which your physicians can handle, consult him or her.
Source: tribuneonlineng

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