Childhood obesity An active and alert infant who reaches his milestones on time is healthy. A fat nine month old infant may be unable to stand because his legs cannot support his body weight. Obesity in children is assuming great magnitude abroad and is slowly creeping into affluent families in India also. A study of school children showed that every fifteenth child is obese.
Who is obese? An individual whose body weight is more than twenty percentage of the normal weight of his age height is said to be obese. For example, the average weight for a five year old Indian child is 17 to18 kg. A child who weight more than 22kg would be termed obese.
What causes obesity? When the intake of energy is more than the body's requirement, fat starts accumulating in the body. One of the major reasons for this is faulty food habit. Eating more carbohydrate and fat foods gives you more calories. Eating desserts chips, junk foods, creams, sweets etc. should be minimized. Faulty food habits are further compounded with little or no exercise. Studies show that the possibility of a child with normal weight parents becoming obese is eight to ten percentages. If one of the parents is obese, the possibility increases to forty percentages. However, if both the parents are obese, the possibility climbs to eighty percentages.
Increase in fat cell People may love a fat infant, but fat adolescents become a source of worry. When a child is overfed in infancy, the fat starts getting stored in the adipose tissue. The quantity of these cells increases normally till the age of one. After this age the cells number do not increase but the size of the cells increases. In fat infants the number of fat cells also keeps increasing. Thus a fat child has more chance of becoming a fat adult. If a person starts dieting at a later age the cell number cannot decrease. Also the chances of regaining the lost weight are very high. Fat infants become fat adolescents and later on fat adults. They are more susceptible to hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and a host of other ailments.
Prevention of childhood obesity The main point to be emphasized here is the proper selection of foodstuffs. Carbohydrate rich food like rice, potato, banana, biscuits and oily foods are to be given in moderation. The child should be made to develop the taste for paneer, pulses, eggs, fruits, vegetables, juices, soups etc. The family feeding habit should also be healthy. In some families, consuming parathas for dinner daily is a must. However, phulkas are more suitable and lighter. Similarly, all meals do not have to be followed with a dessert. Sometimes shelves at homes are stacked high with chips, fried nuts etc.
It is difficult for a child to resist the temptation of snacking. Bribing a child with chocolates, sweets, pastries and ice creams is also common. It has become difficult for children to imagine watching a without a bagful of buttered popcorn and carbonated cold drinks. All the wrong eating habits contribute largely to the problem of obesity. Parents should teach the importance of healthy eating habits from the childhood to bring their generation in future.