Obesity & Children: Why should we worry?

To start, I’d like to give you an example to ponder over: A child would have to cycle for at least 90 minutes to burn the calories he or she consumes from one medium sized portion of french fries from Macdonalds. Child obesity is a growing epidemic; both in developed as well as developing countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently described it as an ‘exploding nightmare’.

The commission on childhood obesity found 41 million under-five children to be either obese or overweight. This figure made up approximately 6.1% of the total population of under-fives in 2014, compared to 4.8% in 1990. In countries like India, the number of obese children have doubled over the same period, from 7.5 million to 15.5 million. Approximately 48% of all overweight or obese children under-five live in Asia, with Africa coming second at 25%. Such children are at a larger risk of continuing to be obese into adulthood as well as more susceptible to noncommunicable diseases like type-two diabetes, musculoskeletal  disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

Many developing countries like India are beginning to face a dual challenge in this regard. On one hand there is still a need to ensure food security and eliminate problems pertaining to under-nutrition in rural areas, while  on the other there seems to have been a rapid increase of risk factors associated with obesity in urban settings. This is caused due to inadequate pre-natal, infant and child nutrition that usually follows into poor diets that are high fat and energy dense. Couple this with a lack of physically activity as the child grows older and an environment that encourages consumption and you can be assured these numbers will only rise.

There are number of factors that directly and indirectly contribute to this global epidemic. Everything from the way we view food to what our understanding of a healthy diet is had changed in the recent centuries. As we move towards a more global economy, open markets where food products from across the world can be delivered to your doorstep, t precautionary measures that should be adopted by households to ensure their children and the generations to come do not succumb to the problems of obesity.

References:

  1. Childhood obesity, an exploding nightmare. ANI 16th June, 2016. Health News, www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com
  2. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.,Why does childhood overweight and obesity matter? World Health Organisation, http://www.qho.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood_consequences/en/

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