Childhood Obesity is an Unhealthy
Childhood obesity is an unhealthy condition that affects children, as well as teenagers more and more nowadays. This disease is typified by excess body fats, and is a consequence of modern lifestyle. It should be noted that childhood obesity has become a serious public health issue in a modern society. According to current statistics, the number of children who suffer from obesity has doubled from 1980s. This disease has many effects on children’s health, and can be determined by Body Max Index, taking into consideration the height and age of a child. It refers to pathological conditions that are much easier to prevent than to cure. According to BMI index, the child is considered obese if he/ she is weighting above the average norm. BMI index is changing depending on child’s sex and age.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Firstly, it should be mentioned that there is no single reason that causes the particular problem; there exists a whole complex of reasons that cause childhood obesity.
There are many causes of childhood obesity, but eating habits and nutrition are the core ones. Almost all children drink countless sugar-sweetened drinks and eat harmful snacks. A busy way of life makes people purchase ready-to-eat healthy foods. Such foods usually do not contain enough nutrition, and buying fast food for children, parents risk a lot. Sometimes, working mothers reduce breakfast consumption, because they lack time; however, doctors consider that fact as a big mistake, because breakfast is an inevitable part of child’s ration. Sometimes, parents worrying about their children feed them food high in calories every moment they feel hungry. Analyzing this problem, Poskitt & Edmunds (2008) stated that, overfeeding on carbohydrate is likely to generate 75% to 80% unused energy, which is converted to fats.
Physical inactivity and sedentary life are the major causes of childhood obesity. A child who engages in physical activity has much fewer risks of obesity than the one who just plays the computer games and watches TV. Modern children suffer from technique dependency and laziness. It is important to mention that lack of movement results in little energy and activity of children. What is more, these children can easily fall into depression. With the emergence of modern devices, children became lazy and inactive. They would rather explore the new computer game than do some exercises. If the parents neglect their children, it will lead to serious consequences. The statistics consumes that almost 30% of adult obesity starts from a childhood.
Four Degrees of Obesity
With obesity of the first degree, the “lightest one” the body weight exceeds the norm by 15-20%, with obesity of the second degree the weight exceeds the norm by 20-50%. With obesity of the third degree body weight exceeds the “ideal” by 50-100%. If excess body weight exceeds 100% of the norm, then one can say about obesity of the fourth degree. In this case, there is a real threat not only for health, but also for the patient’s life.
Medical illnesses as well as genetics also influence childhood obesity a lot. The critical period for the emergence of obesity is the first two years of life. Obesity occurs as a result of the central nervous system’s structures’ destruction. This may also be due to an infectious process as well as an injury. In many cases, obesity developed in children after birth trauma or asphyxia. Mechanical brain injury (fall, a blow of the head, etc.) can also cause severe obesity.
The emergence of overweight also has psychological causes. Psychologists have noticed the following pattern - children who have had awkward relationship with parents, who are experiencing acute failure in school, feelings of loneliness, eat more or less than they need, without noticing.
Poskitt & Edmunds (2008) concluded that low self-fulfillment might affect education and future career expectations alongside increasing the likelihood of being abused physically and emotionally. The role of hereditary factors in the development of childhood obesity is beyond any doubts. Obesity may be an independent disease or a syndrome of other disorders. The undisputed fact is that weight gain is the result of an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. In recent years, there is a significant decrease in physical activity of children and adolescents since they spend more time on the TV, computer and less involved in sports.
Obesity results by increased lipogenesis and increasing the size of adipocytes due to overeating, increased metabolic activity of adipocytes, increased concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids (EFAs) in the blood, muscles use mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), increased blood glucose, increased secretion of insulin and increase its concentration in the blood as well as increasing of appetite.
Effects of Childhood Obesity
As for the effects of childhood obesity, they can be divided into physical and psychological ones. Heart failure and even stroke are possible if a person suffers from obesity. Cardiovascular risks are also among physical problems. Obese children can get also diabetes type II, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well. Sleeping disorders are the usual things for these children.
Analyzing the physical effects of childhood obesity, the researchers Biro & Wien (2010) come to a conclusion that in accordance to the CDC, 70% of children who are suffering from obesity have such diseases as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels or glucose intolerance. Moreover, obese children may suffer from asthma, non-alcoholic liver disease and life threatening complications, such as heart or kidney failure.
In the initial stages of this disease excess body weight is moderate, and patients have no significant complaints. However, the relatively rapid progression of obesity leads to deterioration of health, fatigue, headache, transient increase in blood pressure and thirst. There are changes in the skin (marbling, hyper pigmentation), shortness of breath, tachycardia, and pain in the heart, and right upper quadrant, excessive development of adipose tissue in the breast area.
More than 50 Syndromes Associated with Obesity
Speaking about psychological effects, one should mention low-self esteem, depression and fear of mockeries. According to Schwimmer, the quality of life of obese children is compared with the life of cancer-sick patients. It is hard to make friends for the obese children, since almost everybody is making fun of them (Schwimmer, Burwinkle, & Varni, 2003). Unfortunately, these children experience countless inferiority complexes, are too shy and feel lonely.
Two Types of Obesity: Alimentary and Endogenous
- Alimentary obesity begins when a person has a hereditary predisposition and implements it. Such a person is gaining excess weight, eating improperly, abusing fatty foods, moving little, etc.
- Endogenous obesity is obesity, which happens as a result of some disease. Often it is the disease of the endocrine system (e.g., decreased thyroid function).
According to a survey by Bagchi (2010), 25% of active teenagers between 14 and 19 were active adults alongside 2% of inactive teenagers within the same age range who transformed to active adults.
Children who can be the members of the group of risk:
- Children, who were accustomed to artificial feeding (especially high-calorie unbalanced mixtures);
- Children whose parents are obese or overweight;
- Premature babies and with extra-small weight;
- Children whose relatives suffer (or have suffered) from diabetes or other endocrine disorders;
- Children with hereditary diseases and endocrine disorders.
It is a proven fact that if one parent is obese, then the likelihood that the child will inherit the parent’s inclination is 40%; if both parents are obese - 80 %.
Treatment of Childhood Obesity
In order to avoid excess body weight gain, one should take care about many factors. It is necessary to cure this disease, because it is closely connected with many other diseases such as diabetes type II, depressions, high blood pressure, etc. Parents should become role models for their children. Prevention of obesity in children should begin when a woman is pregnant; it involves good nutrition and healthy way of life. When a child is born, a mother should support proper breast feeding. Later, little children should be fed with nutrition of low fat content.
During childhood, children should be monitored for an excess increase in BMI, if it is high, there should be used regulation in their feeding to maintain appropriate weight for height (Ferry, 2007).
Treatment of obesity should be comprehensive. This process should include changes in the family’s situation, food temptations should be excluded from the lifestyle; one should stop to consume excess calories and live a sedentary lifestyle. Also, parents should encourage physical activity in a family.
What is more, it was proven that domestic atmosphere influence childhood obesity. Typically, childhood obesity increases with age, and creates all the preconditions for the emergence and development of many diseases. Many experts believe that the most serious consequences of obesity are social and psychological ones.
Childhood obesity is also becoming a cause of insecurity and low self-esteem of the child, as well as development of various complexes that negatively affect relationship with his peers.
Childhood obesity usually starts as a result of some hereditary prerequisites or wrong interaction of dietary, physical, psychological and physiological factors. Often, it becomes the result of the emergence of a whole set of reasons: overfeeding in infancy, noncompliant and wasting calories, lack of physical activity, improper eating behavior modeling, etc.
Indeed, childhood obesity is easier to prevent than to cure, so prevention of obesity should be the main task of the parents. If parents see that preventive measures have no good result, they should seek for the help of professionals. Previously competent intervention is capable to provide effective results in the treatment of obesity, as proven that eating and physical behavior of a child or adolescent is easier to correct than the behavior of an adult.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2010, about 40 million children under age five suffer from obesity. Dietary recommendations for children over two years differ little from recommendations for adults. Experts say that their diet should include cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts.
Overweight children often refuse to participate in outdoor games due to poor health, because of that they feel awkward as well as because of fear of ridicules.
In conclusion, it should be noted that children have many health problems that include weak immune system, memory problems as well as weak sight; however, childhood obesity is the most dangerous disease since it affects the entire physical and social life of a child. It is extremely difficult for obese children to co-exist in school with peers; almost all mock at them.
Resentment, feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, persistent negative emotions are the results of childhood obesity. It is very easy to quit diet - any stressful situation can be the reason for the failure: family quarrels, conflicts at school - any such circumstance may provoke crisis. The struggle with obesity is effective only when the parents realize that their child really needs to get weight corrected.
Present observations reveal that acknowledgement of this problem will help to prevent this disease, so it is extremely important to conduct a research towards its eradication since approximately one-third of the United States adults are facing this health hazard.