The scourge of obesity among children is spreading far and wide, cutting across lines of race, community, country and socio-economic status. It is widely prevalent not only in the rich countries like the United States, but also in developing countries of Asia and Africa.
If timely remedial measures are not taken to help the obese children control their weight, they will become prone to a variety of health-related problems, including heart disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, asthma, and sleeping disorders.
Obesity among children can also lead to serious psychosocial problems, such as depression and low self-esteem. Childhood obesity is a complex issue and a multi-pronged strategy at the government level is required to tackle it.
Several studies have been conducted by governmental and professional organizations in various countries into this problem, which has grown into epidemic proportions during the last few decades. It has more than tripled in the last 30 years in some countries, according to reports. One of these studies points to scientific evidence which shows that the most serious contributor to childhood obesity is a lack of physical activity or exercise.
The other major contributors to obesity include drinking of sugared drinks and eating of processed and junk food. According to one study, parents are the key factor for controlling obesity in children. A parent’s full involvement in the child’s food habits will be major step to help prevent obesity and ensure the child a life of preventable diseases in his/her future.
Children should be taught to avoid foods and beverages that contain refined sugars and other junk foods and replace these foods with whole foods that contain real nutrients that build up the body. They will then grow to be strong and healthy adults. Children also should be taught the importance of regular exercise to grow strong and healthy.
Children need nutritious food to enable them to develop and grow healthy… Efforts should be made to ensure that these calories come from whole foods and not processed foods. In many cases, families have been forced by financial and time pressures to minimize food costs and meal preparation time, leading to increased consumption of prepackaged convenience foods.
These foods are high in calories and fat. Junk food producers also target children with attractive advertisements. Many professional health organizations and social groups have called for legislation to take effective measures to deal with the growing problem of childhood obesity. These include promotion of physical activities and nutrition education for school children and self-regulation of food intake by the children.
Parents and caregivers can help prevent childhood obesity by providing healthy meals and snacks, daily physical activity, and nutrition education. Healthy meals and snacks provide nutrition for growing bodies while modeling healthy eating behavior and attitudes. Thus, one of the main strategies for preventing childhood obesity is to reduce, or even eliminate, intake of refined sugar, which is the main cause of obesity. Refined sugar is present in almost all processed foods and consumption of sugary drink raises a child’s obesity risk considerably. As part of this strategy, children should be encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits. They should drink pure water for thirst, instead of flavored juices.
Another major step is to encourage children do physical exercise daily. Increased physical activity reduces health risks and helps weight management. Nutrition education helps young children develop an awareness of good nutrition and healthy eating habits for a lifetime. These efforts to support a healthful lifestyle, including proper diet and adequate opportunity for regular physical activity, can help children to grow with a healthy weight and avoid becoming overweight.