The disorder of obesity can run like a chain reaction from childhood to adulthood. Obese infants may tend to grow up into obese children and continue this trend to adolescence, then further into adulthood. This obesity may progress to give rise to related diseases and other health problems.
If even one parent is obese, then the chances of a child being obese and chances of adulthood obesity are more. If the child obesity continues in adolescence then 70 – 80 % if such adolescents may remain obese as adults.
How a child acquires obesity?
When the input of energy is more than the output of the same, then it results in weight gain. When a child uses less calories than the number of calories in his food intake, then the excess calories collect, slowly building up obesity. Food gives energy, so it is Energy input and a person’s activity, metabolic rate and thermal effect of food make up the Energy output. (Thermal effect of food = calories taken up to digest and absorb the food in the blood) Metabolic rate of the body could depend upon the genes of a person. But by changing the amount and type of activities, Energy output could be increased.
3500 calories turn into one pound of weight. So if there is 50 to 100 calories of excess energy input everyday, then collectively it gives rise to 5 t 10 pound of excess weight every year. Thus in a slow process, even a little excess of energy input can result in a measurable increase in weight over the years. So it is observed that the child obesity shows a slow and constant upward trend.
Problems involved in child obesity.
Among the children suffering from obesity, only a small percentage is due to genetic defect or hormonal problems. In obese children, there could be other health problems caused due to obesity. So obese children should be medically examined to rule out orthopedic problems caused by weight, cardiac risk factors, skin disease and also possibility of psychiatric disorders.
Obese children could have higher cholesterol levels, also elevated heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac output than the normal children. Use of tobacco could increase chances of cardiovascular disease in obese children. Although type 2 diabetes mellitus may not be found in high percent of obese children, but glucose intolerance and hyper-insulinemia are quite common in such cases.
In child obesity, television watching could be a major cause factor, so checking physical exercise pattern of obese child is necessary to decide the cardiac risk factor.
The extra weight is not good for the bones, thus giving rise to orthopedic problems in such children. As excess weight causes deep skin folds, there are always high chances of skin diseases. The obesity may give rise to psychological disorders like low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence or depression
Treating child obesity.
It is very essential to treat obesity in childhood itself. This could be achieved in 3 steps:
Weight loss aim: Reachable aims should be set, keeping in mind that a child’s normal growth is essential, too. So starting with small amounts, reduction of 1 to 4 pounds a month is preferable.
Managing diet: A complete record of amount and variety of food eaten, along with the time and place of eating, should be maintained. In order to reduce 1 pound of weight, 3500 calories should be burnt, by combination of diet and activity. The quantity of fat, protein and carbohydrates in the food should be monitored. Increasing the percentage of fiber in food is necessary as it gives feeling of fullness and also reduces calorie-raising components in the food.
Physical exercise: In order to use up the calories and reduce the weight, physical activity is a must for obese child. It also helps converting body fat in muscle. It is advisable to start with light exercises slowly building up t higher levels. At least 20 – 30 minutes of medium exercise pattern is needed.
Treatment of child obesity requires involvement of the entire family. Keeping food and exercise diaries help child maintain a daily pattern. Family should practice healthy eating habits. The child should be made aware of calories in each food. Parents should guide child with proper advice of limited eating at appropriate time, proper chewing of food, eating in small portions etc. Small goals should be decided to reduce the weight with exercise. If a child maintains his diet pattern, weight loss by activity, then his efforts should be encouraged with words of praise and rewards. Parents should guide the child through possible depression or negative self-esteem. Thus, entire family involvement is necessary to overcome obesity problem of a child.