Is Childhood Obesity an epidemic? Obesity is a condition that occurs when a person carries excess weight or body fat that affects their health. They say “A healthy body eats healthy food”. I say “An unhealthy eating creates an unhealthy body and has a short life span.” Childhood Obesity is becoming a global concern, as more children/adolescents are either obese or tending towards being obese. Childhood obesity has been linked to Ethnicity, Social class, and lifestyle. This is a wake-up call for the Government, Parents, and everyone to do something to stop this issue before it becomes uncontrollable. All over the world, the issue of childhood obesity is increasing yearly (Lobstein et al).
Ten percent of the world’s school-aged children are estimated to be carrying excess body fat with an increased risk for developing chronic disease. Of these overweight children, a quarter is obese with a significant likelihood of some having multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and a variety of other co-morbidities before or during early adulthood. The problem of childhood obesity is linked to Ethnicity. According to a study carried out in 1988-1998 by the national Longitudinal survey of youth among 8270 children aged 4-12years, the result shows that prevalence of overweight increased significantly and steadily among Hispanic and African American and non-Hispanic white. (Strauss and Pollack). Also, a survey study in the 1990s shows that in Brazil and the USA, an additional 0.5% of the entire child population became overweight each year. In Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe, the rates were higher with an additional 1% of all children becoming overweight each year (Lobstein et.al)
Childhood obesity is prevalent in economically developed countries but is rising significantly in most parts of the world. In developing countries, child obesity is most common in the wealthier section of the population (Lobstein et. al). Children of lower income families are particularly vulnerable because of poor diet and limited opportunities for physical activity.
The root causes of obesity are any factor that raises energy intake by even a small amount will cause obesity in the long term (Ebbeling et.al).
One of the causes of obesity in children is Television viewing. It is believed that television viewing promotes weight gain not only by displacing physical activity but also by increasing energy intake. Children while watching television consume an excessive amount of energy-dense food and drinks without resistance. Additionally, television advertisement could adversely affect dietary patterns throughout the day. American and British children are exposed to about 10 foods commercial per hour of Television time; most of these adverts are for fast food, soft drinks, sweets, and sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal. Diet is also a cause of obesity in children. Excessive fat consumption is known to cause weight gain. Intake of partially hydrogenated (trans) fat, commonly found in commercial bakery product and fast food increase risk for both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Consumption of carbohydrate foods especially in the form of refined foods e.g. bread, ready to eat cereal, potatoes, soft drinks, cakes, and biscuits, increase the chances of being obese. These type of food are called high glycemic index food and they can stimulate hunger and cause overeating in children. Consumption of fast food is on the increase in both developed and developing nations. The regular consumption of fast food increases the chances of being obese, the reason being that fast food contains high calories, high glycemic index, saturated and trans fats and they are low in fibre, micronutrients, and antioxidants. Family factor is also a major cause of obesity in children and adolescent. Parent-child interaction and the home environment can affect behaviours related to the risk of obesity. (Ebbeling et.al).
African American and Hispanic families often time like to eat out, and thus tend to increase the chances of developing obesity in children. Children consume more energy dense food when meals are eaten in restaurants than at home.
Some of the solutions to the problem of childhood obesity can be by increasing access to healthy food for poor and low-income families. For them, it is easier and cheaper to afford unhealthy food. Getting rid of fast food wouldn’t be beneficial unless there was a replacement. For the wealthy ones in the society that can afford to buy healthy food but still prefers to eat unhealthily, Counselling and educating them on the health implications of eating unhealthy food will be a better solution. Parent, schools and the Government should discourage the consumption of soft drinks and sweetened juice in children and adolescents. A study that was conducted by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), it was concluded that sweetened beverages intake is related to obesity and over weight in children and adolescents (Davis et. al). It was also found that among low income children to years of age, consumption of sweetened drinks increased the odds of becoming obese by more than 60%. I will encourage Parents, schools and the community to replace the consumption of sweetened beverages and sweetened juice among young children and adolescents with water which is healthier. Drinking of water is beneficial in numerous ways. Also, Parents should reduce the consumption of food rich in saturated fats and increase the intake of fruits and vegetables that is healthier when serving meals to their children. In schools, mealtime should be a fun time, where fruits and vegetables are presented to children in a colorful and appetizing manner. Food rich in saturated fat should be completely removed from the school menu. I will propose that physical exercise be introduced in all level of education in schools. Parents should also take time off on weekends and go do some physical activity with their children.
In the last few decades, obesity prevalence as increased as a function of number of hours that TV network devote to target children population (M.Caroli et. al). Television could be convenient tool to spread correct information on good nutrition and obesity prevention. The likeness of food and obesity in television has many negative consequences on food habits and pattern. Reducing the hours spent viewing television could help in reducing and preventing obesity and overweight in children and Adolescents.
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