Among some of the main causes of obesity worldwide are conditions such as environmental factors, lifestyle preferences and the local culture. Obese children are five times more prone in avoiding school activities and participation in sports. They are also more likely to have lower emotional, social and school functioning. Overweight children would most probably be overweight or obese in their adulthood, leading to the significant contribution of the growing prevalence in heart diseases, diabetes as well as other chronic problems, many of which are associated with increased morbidity and mortality, as well as psychological issues. All these could persist into adulthood and adversely affect the quality of life.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Unhealthy food and meal options, as well as regular consumption of high-calorie foods such as fast food, chips, cookies or other baked goods, candies, soda and vending machine snacks are one of the main causes of weight gain.
- Lack of physical activity
The use of digital technologies such as computers, television and video games would encourage children to stay indoors and lead a sedentary lifestyle. They are unable to burn more calories, in which causes weight gain among children.
- Societal Factors
Residents of urban neighborhoods do not have access to healthy food alternatives, making it hard to purchase fresh and inexpensive produce, whilst resorting to convenience stores and fast food outlets. Lack of open spaces for physical activities, busy streets and high violence rate in inner city neighborhoods cause parents to keep their children indoor with offers of sedentary entertainment such as computers, video games and television.
- Overweight Parents
A child’s ability to maintain a healthy weight could also be affected by the family’s eating patterns. An overweight parent who has poor diet or exercise habits would most probably cause the child to adopt such habits.
Genetic factors are also one of the common causes of obesity in some children, putting them at a greater risk. These children’s body would easily gain weight due to the inherited genes from their parents, especially with the availability of high-calorie food and lack of physical activities.
- Medical Factors
There may be an increased appetite in a child with certain medical conditions. Hormone disorders or low thyroid function, and certain medicines, such as steroids or anti-seizure medications could lead to an increase in appetite. In the long run, these factors would possibly lead to the risk of obesity.
Myths and Facts about Weight Problems and Obesity in Children
Myth 1: Children who are obese or overweight should be put on a diet.
Fact: The treatment method for childhood obesity is not through weight loss, unless it is according to the doctor’s advice. The proper goal should be to slow or stop weight gain, thus allowing a child to grow into his or her ideal weight.
Myth 2: It’s just baby fat. Children will outgrow the weight.
Fact: Though childhood obesity raises the risk of obesity in adulthood dramatically, it is not always a contributing factor.
What can parents do?
Prevention is the key strategy in controlling the current epidemic of obesity among children. Healthy lifestyle and eating habits should be practiced starting at home. The most effective way to battle or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to make the entire family go on a healthier track. Making better food choices and leading an active lifestyle would benefit everyone, regardless of weight. It is much easier for an overweight child to make lasting changes with the involvement of the whole family.
- Healthy eating and lifestyle habits, as well as physical activities could help lower the risk of obesity and the development of any related diseases.
- Children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society in their dietary and physical activity behaviors. This includes families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, as well as the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
- It is important for the schools to play a particularly critical role in establishing a safe and supportive environment, using policies and practices which encourage healthy behaviors. The schools are also able to provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.
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