Childhood Obesity

What is Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity occurs when a child is extremely overweight for his or her age or height. Obesity can develop if a child consistently has a caloric intake that exceeds day-to-day caloric expenditures. While excessive calories can cause obesity, the condition is quite complex and can be caused by a genetic predisposition, behavior issues, and community issues. For instance, if a child takes certain medications that cause weight gain or doesn’t care for physical activity, then obesity is more likely to develop. If a caregiver neglects a child’s dietary and medical needs, the child may have to fend for themselves and end up overeating. Socioeconomic factors can also play a role in the development of obesity. Because fast-food is usually more affordable, caregivers may opt for foods of low-nutritional value.

Advertisements and the local community can also affect a child’s chances of obesity. If children are inundated with ads for snacks and treats, they may be more prone to craving sweets and soft drinks. Some schools have vending machines with unhealthy foods and some day cares don’t have stringent rules about serving healthy foods, which again, can contribute to children eating unbalanced meals and unhealthy portion sizes. And if a child lives in a dangerous community, it may be hard to find parks and other outdoor environments to be physically active.

What are the Symptoms of Childhood Obesity?

Binge eating, poor physical stamina, shortness of breath, excess weight, or a protruding belly could indicate childhood obesity.

Parents should take their child to a doctor for a body mass index (BMI) ratio, since a high BMI rating is the significant symptom. BMI doesn’t measure the amount of body fat, but rather the relationship of fat in regards to an individual’s height, weight, and sex. BMI ranges of 25.0 to 29.9 indicate an overweight individual, while a BMI of 30 or more indicates an obese individual. A child can also be obese if they are in the 95th percentile of the child growth chart.

Childhood Obesity Causes

Genetics and hormones play a role in causing childhood obesity, along with other contributors. Genetics may increase the risk of childhood obesity, but the impact of obesity is low – confirming the major influence of childhood obesity is excessive food consumption and lack of physical movement. Inactive lifestyles, coupled with the choice of processed and high fatty foods, are major causes of childhood obesity.

Unhealthy eating patterns are more common with the condition, although in some rare cases, a medical condition related to hormonal problems can cause obesity. This irregularity occurs when the digestive hormones fail to send signals to the brain of being full.

Underlying psychological and behavioral health issues may likewise be a cause for childhood obesity. When children internalize social problems, it can manifest into eating disorders. For many children these harmful eating habits relate to low self-esteem or body image.

How is Childhood Obesity Treated?

Obesity is a very curable condition through dietary changes, increased activity, medication, and in rare cases, surgery.

Parents or guardians should focus on making home-cooked meals, buying healthy snacks, buying more fruits and veggies, cutting out soft drinks or juices, and limiting portion sizes. Dietary changes are key to lowering a child’s weight; a nutritionist can further educate caregivers in this regard. An increase in physical activity is also key to lowering a child’s BMI. Limiting electronic usage and encourage children to play outside or join a school sport can help.

If a child has a genetic predisposition to obesity or is taking medication that causes weight gain, dietary changes and exercise may not be enough. Certain medications, like Orlistat, can be useful since they prevent fat absorption in the intestines.

In rare cases, a child may need to undergo weight-loss surgery. This option is only considered if a all other treatments have failed and if a child would be in danger of complications without the surgery. Surgery is not a panacea however, and a child will have to work with a pediatric endocrinologist, dietitian, and/or other specialists.

Childhood Obesity Prevention

Childhood obesity is preventable. Parents need to make sure young children intake the essential nutrients for maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet of natural ingredients. Regular physical exercise versus sedentary activities is a preventative measure of obesity in early childhood.

Parents should always refer to a medical physician when confronting the proper weight of younger children, since growth patterns and physical structures vary from child to child. Before imposing a restricted diet meet with your doctor as a low supply of proper nutrients may cause deficiencies in the normal growth and development of a young child.

If a family history of childhood obesity exists, you need to learn about the condition and talk with your pediatrician about prevention. In case of a digestive health problem, your doctor will administer tests for determining the best solution to fix the issue and prevent obesity. A specialist needs to address the psychological or behavioral health problems too.