Early Efforts Can Prevent Childhood Obesity


Skipping that extra cookie at dessert time maybe hard, but it could be worth it after all. Though people of all ages can be susceptible to obesity, children are much more vulnerable.

As overweight children grow older, their weight gain may gradually worsen. Parents can make comments like ‘it's just baby weight’ or ‘they'll grow out of it’, but this actually isn't the case for all children.

According to a 2016 article in The New York Times, “life threatening ailments like heart disease, cancer, strokes, and Type 2 diabetes most often afflict adults, but they are often consequences of childhood obesity.”

Two new studies recently conducted with more than half a million children in Denmark support this article and further show that overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults than children who are not overweight. The studies correlate obesity in children to higher risks of colon cancer and early stroke in adults. These studies conclude that it may be crucial for children to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry posits that there is an 80 percent chance that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 will become an obese adult. In a study that involved a sample of 7,738 kindergarteners, researchers found that the risk of obesity did not differ by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or birth rate. Rather, it showed that early weight gain is a significant risk factor, indicative of adult obesity for all populations.

Problems caused by obesity in youth extend beyond physical ones. For example, obese adolescents have higher rates of depression, which in itself may lead to poor eating and exercise patterns. This can result in a poor quality of life that may continue into adulthood.

A study conducted in Singapore, Malaysia suggested that “individuals who were obese in childhood are more likely to have poor body image and low self- esteem and confidence, even more so than those with adult onset obesity.”

Colleagues of Dr. Jeremy Schwimmer, one of the leading researchers behind the obesity studies, said that obese children or adolescents actually have the same diminished quality of life as a child with cancer.

So, what can parents and children do to prevent or respond to childhood obesity?

According to The New York Times, “Without being labeled authoritarian, parents should limit high-calorie-dense foods, keep sugar-sweetened beverages out of the house and assure that kids eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables and fewer calorie-dense snacks.”

Lastly, The New York Times emphasizes the importance of keeping recreational screen time to two hours or less a day, including at least one hour of active play, skipping sugar-sweetened beverages and drinking water instead.

These important research efforts around the world can help children learn to maintain healthier living habits before they even reach adulthood.

[Source: The New York Times]

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