Top Causes / Risk Factors ForChildhood Obesity

Let’s start by getting one thing understood without any doubts by considering the following sobering and soul-searching summary:

1 out of every 10 children in the UK and 1 out of every 5 children in the US are hugely over weight.This is not just a problem for these two nations but a malaise threatening the entire world,developing countries included.

In a dichotomous scenario where thousands of children from many developing nations or poor families struggle to get even one square meal a day,many children from affluent homes or developed nations are turning obese due to an excess of food andlack of exercise.

This phenomenon has been further fuelled by a development in technology with video games replacing outdoor play and family walks and trips cut short or substituted with television time.Also on the rise is the busy,fast-paced life in which parents are working and/or children have excessively packed schedules with school, practice classes, coaching, etc. This has led to a lack of time to prepare wholesome healthy foods and instead a growing dependence on packaged meals.With everything available round the clock and easily delivered and a growth in fast food joints and restaurants at an easy accessible distance, eating outside food is the norm rather than an exception.

With all this going on, children are also more attuned to junk food, as fried food seems tastier than having vegetables and candy tastes better than fruit.Childhood obesity does not differ from adult obesity. Just like their adults counterparts, children will accumulate fats cells in their body if they consume more calories than their body burns off. A pattern that can lead to obesity if it is not corrected in time, and statistics show that it is not being checked.

In fact, childhood obesity have tripled since the 1970s and it seems the “Super Size” world has finally caught up with us.

Top Causes/Risk Factors of Childhood Obesity

Rates of obesity have grown alarmingly in the age group of 6-19 years in the past few decades.

What is the reason behind this increase?

Actually, no single cause or factor can be blamed for obesity. It is a complex problem, and often there are multiple factors working simultaneously. Some of the top causes of increased childhood obesity are as follows :


Poor Diet

Poor choices when it comes to eating are a major factor behind the rise of obesity, both in adults and children. Foods that are high in sugar, such as candies, chips, cookies and other baked desserts, soft drinks and other items sold at the vending machine, along with foods that are high in fats and sodium, such as fast foods, provide many calories without offering much nutrition.

These often serve as snack options, but what people don’t realize is that these foods are usually calorie dense and often provide more calories when combined than a main course meal.

Research has shown that kids in America are now getting, as much as, 27% of their daily calories from such snacks. This problem is often worsened by the fact that many kids don’t get a healthy lunch either.Convenient options for lunch, which can be packed easily and often come from pre-packaged food items, are to be blamed in several cases. Processed foods have replaced home-cooked, healthy meals.They also promote overeating.

Consumption of these foods has grown over the years.

Tantalizing commercials that are on air every day, large sizes of portions and lack of dietary fiber,thereby reducing satiety, are to be blamed for tempting kids, and adults too, into consuming these foods more often. Sure enough, research has shown that sugar and fast foods can be as addictive as some drugs.

When your kitchen cabinets are filled with junk food, those are the only choices you provide your kids.


Lack of Physical Activity

In the modern era, where so many things are easier for us because of the technological advancement, sedentary lifestyle has become a major problem. It is also a major cause of childhood obesity

Using cars to travel to school and short distances over protecting kids from the dangers of outdoor play activities; and television, computers and gaming consoles have made the lifestyle of kids extremely sedentary.

Many kids lack sufficient physical activity at the pr-eschool age itself, which makes it less probable that these kids will adopt a more active lifestyle in the future. Not only do these kids miss the benefits of regular exercise, the lifestyle they adopt comes with numerous health negatives.

Experts recommended that kids get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.

It doesn’t have to be all at once, 2 or 3 sessions of 20-30 minutes each work too.

Parents should promote activities such as dancing, biking, dodge ball, tag, walking, running, various sports and activities that require physical movement.


Improper Enviroment

Yes, global warming and steadily reducing forest cover are a reality, a scary one too, but they are not environmental concerns that cause childhood obesity. “ Improper environment ” refers to the conditions kids encounter at home and at school.

If parents don’t set an example and adopt a healthier life style themselves, the odds of kids doing so decrease.

Kids should not be blamed for their addiction to processed and high sugar foods if all they find on opening the kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator are chocolates, cookies, ice creams and ready made processed and canned foods.

Keeping your refrigerator and cabinets stocked with healthier food options, such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, will ensure that kids eat healthy food. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should cut out the “bad” food items completely.

A treat once week doesn’t hurt much. However, a treat every day hurts a lot.

Similarly, kids will sit and watch television for hours if they see that is what their parents do every day. It is important to instill healthier habits into your life style, so that your kids can learn and benefit by following example.

Unfortunately, obese parents can pass their unhealthy habits to their kids, and so those children are more at risk due to genetics and environmental factors.. The nature and nurture factors can combust here with disastrous results for the kids.

Schools also need to focus on providing proper information regarding the consequences of being overweight and obese, and help kids avoid or overcome these perils.


Socio-Economic Factors

Obesity rates are at 30.4% for pre-schoolers in low income households. This is due to the fact that unhealthy foods are cheap, including, frozen foods,crackers and cookies.In addition, they are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

They are easy to get and cheaper than fresh healthy options. There is also the fact that there is less access to safe recreational areas for kids to play and run in low income communities.


Other Causes

In addition to the above mentioned major causes, there are a few more factors that can exacerbate overweight dangers in youngsters and contribute to obesity. Some of these factors can also be the major factor in some cases.

  • Genetics

Genes can also play a part in childhood obesity. Some kids might have inherited genes from their parents that make them susceptible to gaining weight easily. These genes might have been useful in the past, when food was scarce and people had a much more active life style, but in the modern era, these genes can be problematic, especially with reduced physical activity. In a few rare cases, obesity can be linked to genetic conditions like Prader Willi syndrome (PWS) . This is characterized by low muscle tone, short stature, incomplete sexual development, cognitive disabilities, behavior problems, and a chronic feeling of hunger that can lead to excessive eating and life-threatening obesity.

The incidence of PWS is between 1 in 25,000 and 1 in 10,000 live births.With the recent benefits of early diagnosis and ongoing interventions, the obesity rate among children with Prader–Willi Syndrome has decreased to be similar to the typical population. With behavioural therapy and other treatments, the effects of the syndrome can be reduced.

  • Medical Conditions

There are a few medical conditions that can lead to obesity: hypothyroidism, growth hormone deficiency and Cushing’s syndrome. Eating disorders, such as Night Eating Syndrome and binge eating disorder, can also be a factor in some cases.

  • Psychological factors

Food can also serve as a coping mechanism. A kid can turn to eating high sugar and high-fat foods, which are recognized as rewards by the brain, in negative situations to cope with the intense emotions.

Loneliness, death or divorce in the family, bullying, abuse, anxiety and boredom are a few examples of issues that can lead to binge eating for coping.

  • Medications

Some medications prescribed to teens and kids can also cause weight gain as a side effect, these include:

  • Mirtazapine, Imipramine. Paroxetine and other antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants, especially Gabapentin, Vigabartin and Sodium Valproate
  • Antipsychotics such as Aripiprazole, Clozapine,Chlorpromazine, Olanzapine, Quetiapine, Pimozide, Quetiapine,and Risperidone
  • Corticosteroids.


The ABCs Of Saving Your Kids From Obesity

An Illustration To Explain The Childhood Obesity Problem In America

An Assist To Preventing Childhood Obesity

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