Obesity and overweight in children

Obesity and overweight in children

1. What is childhood obesity?

You probably know that more people are overweight today than ever before, and experts call this condition the obesity epidemic.
This problem affects children and adults, and so children today suffer from health problems that only affected adults in the past, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
According to Al-Khabra, one-third of children between the ages of 2 and 19 suffer from overweight and obesity.
According to the World Health Organization report for the year 2008, the number of children around the world who suffer from obesity under the age of five is estimated at 22 million.

2. Does my child suffer from obesity?

Knowing whether a person is overweight is more complicated for children than for adults, because children are still in the stage of growth and development. Doctors and health care workers usually use a measure called the body mass index (BMI) to determine if a person is suffering from obesity. Overweight .
Doctors consider that the child suffers from obesity if the BMI is higher than what is standard for 95% of children of the same age and sex, but if the BMI is higher than what is found in 85% - 95% of children of the same age and sex, then the child suffers of gaining weight.

3. What are the causes of obesity in children ?

Obesity usually runs in families, and some people have a genetic tendency to gain weight more easily than others because their bodies burn calories more slowly than others.
Although genes greatly influence body size, the environment also plays a role.
People are gaining weight today because of unhealthy eating habits (such as fast food), and family habits (such as eating in front of the TV instead of around the table).
Other contributing factors to the obesity epidemic include high-calorie but nutrient-poor meals and drinks, larger portion sizes, and a sedentary lifestyle.

4. Health problems caused by being overweight:

Obesity causes fatigue and discomfort for the child to carry this extra weight, which increases pressure on his body, especially the bones and joints of the legs. Not only that, but these children are also at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure at a very early age. Usually, the risk of infection with these diseases begins after the age of forty, but in obese children, it may begin at a young age, such as the age of ten years.
These children may also suffer from health problems during their childhood, such as:
1- Blount's disease :
Excess weight on the growing bones may lead to deformation of the leg bones.
2- Arthritis:
The wear and tear of joints due to excess weight may lead to this painful disease at such an early age.
3- The crisis:
Obesity is associated with breathing problems that make it difficult to keep up with friends, play sports, and even walk from one place to another.
4- Sleep apnea:
This condition is a real problem for many overweight children and adults. This condition awakens them from sleep and makes them tired and negatively affects their ability to concentrate and learn, and may lead to heart problems.
5- High blood pressure:
High blood pressure is rare in adolescents, but it is more common in adolescents who are overweight or obese.
6. High cholesterol :
Long before they become ill, obese teens have abnormal blood lipid levels that include high cholesterol, low good cholesterol (HDL), and high triglycerides. All this leads to an increase in heart attacks and strokes when a person gets older.
7- Gallstones:
The collection of bile that hardens in the gallbladder forms gallstones. This condition may be painful and requires surgery.
8- Fatty liver:
When fat accumulates in the liver it causes inflammation, scarring and permanent damage to the liver.
9- Children and adolescents who suffer from obesity are at risk of developing a pelvic problem that requires surgical intervention to prevent further damage to the joint.
10- Girls who suffer from obesity may suffer from a delayed or interrupted menstrual cycle, and the level of testosterone (the male hormone) in the blood may be high. It is normal for girls to have a low concentration of testosterone in the blood, but a very high percentage hinders ovulation and may lead to increased body hair, making acne worse than before and may also cause baldness in girls.
11- Grease of the genitals in males and protrusion of the breasts due to the accumulation of fat around the genital organs and the increase in the proportion of female hormones in males, especially during adolescence.
12- Insulin resistance and diabetes:
When the percentage of fat is high, insulin is less effective in getting glucose (the main source of energy in the body) into the cells. And then the body needs more insulin to maintain the normal level of sugar in the blood. In some adolescents, insulin resistance may turn into type 2 diabetes.

5. How can I help my child who is overweight?

1. Family concern:

Work on the participation of all family members in building healthy eating habits and sports habits. This will benefit all family members and does not exclude the overweight child.

2. Be supportive:

Tell your child that he is loved, special and important because children's feelings about themselves are usually based on their belief in what their parents feel about them.

3. Encourage healthy eating habits:

- Buy and offer more fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or dried) and allow your child to choose what he wants when buying.
- Buy fewer soft drinks, and foods rich in fat or calories such as chips, biscuits and sweets, and always have healthy foods on hand for the child to eat between meals.
- Make sure your child eats breakfast daily to ensure that he gets the energy needed to learn well at school.
- Reduce your visits to fast food restaurants.
Offer your child water and low-fat milk more than fruit juices, as low-fat milk and milk products are important for the growth and development of your child and contain fewer calories.
- Reduce the amounts of saturated fats in your family's meals, and make sources of fats fish, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
- Cook healthy meals and eat together to help the child enjoy different types of food.
- Do not be alarmed if your child does not accept the new food at first, he may offer the new food several times to some children before they eat it.
- Do not use sweets as a reward for your child when he eats vegetables, because you will send him the message that vegetables are less important than sweets.
- Offer your child a small amount of food at first, and let him ask for more if he is still hungry.
- Pay attention to the foods and drinks that are promoted to children. These products may contain large amounts of sugar and fats. They are usually promoted by cartoon characters, and free games are provided with them. They are wrapped in a bright cover and are widely promoted on television.

4. Encourage sports activities:

- Give a good example: The chance that your child will become an athlete increases if he sees that you are athletically active and that you enjoy the sporting activity.
- Encourage your child to join a sports team, such as football, basketball, or a school or neighborhood gym.
- Plan family sports activities: such as a trip to the zoo, or walking in public parks.
- Encourage fun activities: Help your child find fun activities such as skipping rope, or dancing if he does not feel comfortable when doing sports activities.
- Do not encourage your child to practice sports activities for adults, such as riding a sports bike and treadmill, as children's bodies are not yet ready for such activities.
- Encourage your child to practice sports activity for 60 minutes a day, in the form of one exercise or several exercises for a shorter period for each during the day. If your child is not active, make him start with ten minutes a day and gradually increase the period to reach 60 minutes a day.

5. Reduce inactive time:

- Limit the time your son spends watching TV, playing video games and the computer.
- Help your child find joy in doing a family art project or helping in the garden.
- Set a positive example and this will help your child learn and follow healthy habits throughout their lives.

6. Consult a health professional:

If your child still needs help, consult a specialist who may recommend a special weight loss programme.