Obesity is a global epidemic which has surreptitiously assumed menacing proportions worldwide. No amount of diet counseling, public awareness campaigns to highlight the benefits of healthy eating, have managed to create a dent or stifle its spread.
Worldwide, millions of people succumb to obesity related diseases every year. Approximately three hundred thousand deaths occur in United States alone.
Alarmingly childhood obesity rates, worldwide have continued to gallop and in developed countries have touched epidemic rates. This scenario is a true reflection of our society, where children are getting increasingly attached to their gaming consoles and social media at the expense of any discernible outdoor activity. The ramifications of obesity in children are far flung and can cause serious illness as well as premature death or other devastating disease, later on in life. So obesity, despite its seemingly innocuous nature, is a public health concern.
Statistics do not lie. The problem of childhood obesity in US is a serious one. Incidentally, nearly a quarter of children in the US are overweight and roughly one tenth of them are obese. Obesity is the state of being critically overweight to that extent that it adversely impacts a child’s health. Over the years various treatments propounded doctors and self- professed diet “gurus” have largely remained ineffective. If we continue to ignore this rising hazard, we are doing nothing but burying our heads in the sand and putting our children’s as well as our nation’s future at grave peril. Its proliferation in genetically stable populations has made scientists attribute its rapid development to various adverse environmental factors.
Causes Of Childhood Obesity
Our body’s physiology is governed by a host of factors which manages our energy uptake and its expenditure. The entire process is an intricate mechanism, so any factor that could alter the balance in the precise mechanism, can potentially lead to obesity in long term. For long genetic factors were believed to be responsible for disrupting this energy balance, but obesity’s rapid spread in genetically stable populations is a clear indication of various environmental as well as perinatal factors playing a crucial role.
Traditionally a fat child has always been synonymous with a healthy child. Consequently, pregnant ladies are encouraged to gorge more and more to give birth to a healthy plump baby. However, there is a growing school of thought which has postulated that perinatal overnutrition can result in the early onset of lifelong obesity. The scientists have put forth the hypothesis that the excess nutrition that the mother is fed, is passed along the mother’s placenta to the baby which can ultimately have a negative bearing on child’s metabolism, hormone levels and other physiological functions. A direct correlation between maternal obesity and obesity of the child subsequently, was established. So pregnant women need to be doubly careful about the ill effects of overnutrition.
Dearth Of Physical Activity
There is a glaring lack of physical activity among today’s children. The all pervasive television, gaming consoles and internet have sounded the death knell to any sort of vigorous physical activity that is very essential during a child’s formative years Sample this- An average child in US spends nearly 75% of its waking hours being inactive. Not only are they shedding less energy while sitting in front of the TV, but alarmingly their consumption levels also go up side by side, as the children keep on passively consuming excessive amount of food while being hooked to the television or to the internet.
Imbalanced Diet -
A diet stuffed with harmful ingredients like fat and carbohydrate rather than minerals and protein is the order of the day. Consumption of fast food, carbonated beverages have gone through the roof and this shift in dietary pattern is the single most important factor for obesity. Loose parental monitoring, where parents are increasingly bowing to the wishes of their children and allowing them to pick their own diet, is also responsible. Callous advertisements by fast food joints and burger companies, showcasing their “juicy” offerings are unethical means of luring children, which must be prohibited. Also a change in the contour of today’s family, where dining out is more frequent and children have greater access to television, have inadvertently led to a sharp spike in obesity.
Complications Of Childhood Obesity -
The complications of childhood obesity are manifold which are manifested both physically as well as psychologically. As with adults, obesity in childhood causes hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, liver disease, early puberty, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, asthma and shins infections, and worst of all, cancer. Besides these physical complexities, an obese child also has to suffer from psychological and emotional trauma. Obese kids are subjected to constant bullying and harassment throughout their childhood – all of which leaves a deep impact on a child’s psyche
Bullying can be cruel and traumatic
Prevention & Treatment –
No matter what “novel” or “path-breaking” measures your dietician may suggest, the age old tested methods of exercising and balanced eating still work wonders. Parental supervision and family intervention are essential in ensuring that your child stays healthy. Greater awareness should also be generated at the school level, with students being taught about the perils of obesity and encouraged to participate in more physical activities. Eat right, burn your calories- that is the way to go.
The childhood obesity problem in America is an extremely serious issue which no longer can be ignored. Concerted efforts on the parts of the teachers, parents and the entire community will help in negating the pernicious effects of this menace