Childhood obesity is over time growing into a global concern. The overweight pandemic is arguably more prevalent in developed countries than others, with countries like the USA bearing the brunt of an obese childhood population. Put in context, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) records that over 14 million children between the ages of 2-19 have exceeded standard Body Mass Indices (BMIs), which is close to 20% of the entire childhood population in the US.
Childhood obesity has been traditionally attributed to excessive consumption of high-calorie foods. However, new research has found danger zones in sugar and soft drinks intakes, high meal portions, mental misfits, and scanty body exercises.
Obesity in childhood has more repercussions in later life stages, as the children are likely to maintain the excess Body Mass Index in adulthood or even become bigger. This poses huge risks of contracting lifestyle conditions like diabetes, liver, and cardiovascular diseases in their lifetimes.
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Childhood Obesity Risk-Factors
Calorie foods have long been known to dramatically increase BMI indices, mostly among children who have such foods in high abundance. It’s one causative agent, but there’s more:
- Fast foods, cakes and bakes, snacks etc. High-calorie foods have been the order for young children who have lively taste-buds. Traditional food is considered mundane, and while fast foods may not be utterly catastrophic as we make it sound, it is the consistency that piles up fat in the child’s blood stream and vital organs.
- Lifestyle habits – just like in adults, unhealthy lifestyles breed conditions such as obesity among children. There has been so much discussion into the unhealthily stiff lives our children are subjected to, thanks to video games etcetera. Any substantial diet has to be put to work lest it will be transformed into fat and stored in the body, and we do know the danger of this.
- Psychological stress – Arguably, appetite for fast foods is highly catalyzed by boredom, something that ourselves we can attest. Moreover, scientists have successfully attached high meal portions to the many forms of mental misfits like depression, whereby children feed heavily to console emotional breakdowns.
- Genetic Heritage – It is not uncommon for children to be born with “heavy weight” genes. When inherited, the Prader Willi genetic syndrome elicits obesity. Children inheriting conditions like low-thyroid have been seen to have high appetite levels, risking obesity. Further, family environments fond of obesity-inducing lifestyles such as junk-feeding and high sugar intakes increase the chances of the young to exhibit obesity.
- Medical and Socio-economic factors also induce childhood obesity. As revealed earlier, children in developed countries have higher risks of becoming overweight. The affordability of fast-foods and high-calorie diets may explain this phenomenon.
Childhood Obesity Health and Social Hazards
Obesity has been known to cause consequential health complications, but highly overlooked are the social implications subjected on obese children.
Excess body fats are the poison in obesity, with its impact trailing from the head all the way down:
Obesity has been directly linked to stroke due to inflammation of the brain caused by excess fat deposits. All over the body, high fat content in the blood poses plaque risks in blood vessels, causing high blood pressure. Hypertension is the number one causative agent for stroke.
Also an obesity health hazard, where excessive fat deposits on respiratory tracts narrow air passages. Muscle activity is highly censored during sleep, and this proliferates the risk for suffocation, consequently risking heart attacks and a whole load of cardiovascular nightmares.
Some call it Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), which is the inflammation of liver cells and critical parts by fat deposits in the liver. These deposits are also associated with other complications such as Liver Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer.
Obesity is a chief cause of Type-2 Diabetes, which is commonly associated with insulin resistance or a total lack of insulin. High fat deposits in the pancreas and around the liver cause respiratory cells to reject insulin-action, risking a big chance of liver failure. Type-2 Diabetes is known to cause serious cardiovascular and kidney complications.
Psychological and Social Struggles
Victims of obesity will arguably grapple more with esteem challenges than worries about medical complications. Obese people are at a higher risk of depression, stigmatization, and anxiety disorders. This leads them to be secluded from the outer society, confining them to even greater risks of further obesity.
Diagnosing and Treating Childhood Obesity
Obesity is monitored through physical examination and medical records. A Body Mass Index is often calculated to apportion the child’s weight against the height. A BMI of below 25 is considered healthy while above 30 is rendered chronic obesity with urgent need for therapy. Other measurements include weight balancing, waist , and skinfold measurements.
Arguably, obesity is one of the conditions with widely diversified treatment remedies. Treatment for obesity includes emotional and psychological therapy, dietary changes, lifestyle adjustments, medicine therapy, medical procedures, and corrective surgeries.
Most of the decisions are made by the guardian, and may include resolutions to replace sugary, calorie, and carbohydrate meals with healthy fruits and vegetables. Some food would also be dropped entirely, such as soft drinks and candies.
Parents are once again the administrators of these. The child will have to be trained on a different lifestyle to increase their mobility, proliferate exercises, and reduce time spent in idle positions.
Addressing the root cause of overfeeding could help entirely arrest obesity. Children should be accorded a safe space to express their fears, family concerns, and social challenges. Further steps can be taken by the psychologists to prescribe medications or other remedies.
Medical Procedures to Counter Childhood obesity
Advancements in medicine have invented new ways of bypassing tedious exercises with rapid effects. The list is big, but perhaps we can mention a few:
- Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty – stitching the stomach to reduce its size.
- Intragastric Weight Loss Balloon – a water-filled balloon to reduce the stomach vacuum and achieve fast fill-up with drastically reduced meal portions.
- Adjustable Gastric Banding – reduction of stomach size through sub-division. A band divides the stomach into two, allowing just a narrow passage that retains food for prolonged periods.
- Gastric Bypass Surgery – a significantly smaller pouch is connected to the intestines from the esophagus, acting as the stomach, food now flows directly from the higher part of the stomach to the intestines.
- Gastric sleeve – a big portion of the stomach is ridded and the reduced stomach size now holds less food.
Medicinal packages are issued by qualified physicians depending on the child’s nature and diagnosis.
Other guerilla remedies include vagal nerve blockage which reconverts nerve emissions to reduce appetite, and gastric aspirate where a tube is used to drain the stomach after meals.