A couple of decades back, obesity amongst children wasn’t as prevalent as it can be seen now. In the proverbial good old days, those who can reminisce, there barely used to be a few kids in our classes who could be termed as obese.
With the progress of time, childhood obesity has now emerged as an epidemic in the world. Rough statistics put the number of obese kids in India alone at 14.4 million. This makes India to rank as the nation with 2nd highest no. of obese children in the world, and that is only next to China.
The rising rates in Childhood Obesity have been seen in both the developed nations as well as the developing ones. For example the Rates of obesity in Canadian kids increased from 11% in 1980s to over 30% in 1990s, while during this same time period rates increased from 4 to 14% in Brazilian children.
The prevalence of obesity in indian adults stands at 5% but that in children is touching 15% and more. In private schools catering to upwardly mobile households, these rates have shot to 35-40%, which should be worrying for the current and future governments and the nation as a whole.
Some common risk drivers of childhood obesity that have been observed are the changing food and food habits, eating patterns and feeding practices. These could be enumerated as as:
- Shorter duration of breastfeeding or sometimes even no breastfeeding;
- Readily available fried and high calorie snacks;
- Preference to sweet and fried / high fat food snacks
- Skipping breakfast. This could be due to hurry or under the impression of remaining hungry, so as to lose weight. However this practice infact is counter productive and leads to weight gain.
- Parental influence on child’s environment and eating at home
Obese children have been specifically found to be having a sweet tooth ie a strong craving for sweets and fried snacks when compared to normal weight children.
Overweight and obesity, as already harped upon are lifestyle outcomes that are largely preventible. This in-turn is bound to avert many consequent noncommunicable diseases.
Hence prevention should be the best option to opt, in order to curb and reduce the childhood obesity menace that has gripped the society. Many a nations therefore are switching to treatment practices that are largely aimed at preventing the problem rather than effecting a oost occurrence cure. The ultimate goal therefore in fighting this childhood obesity epidemic is to reach an energy balance in the bodies, which can be maintained throughout an individual’s full life span.
There are many a recommendations put up by Individual Dietitians, Organizations, NGO’s, Govt Agencies and departments, all in their endeavor to arrest the marching childhood obesity across nations. Even WHO has release its own set of recommendations for nations to follow and pay heed. Some of these General and Societal ones are:
- increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts
- limit the intake of sugars and
- limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats
- be physically active – accumulate at least 60 min of regular, moderate to vigorous intensity activity each day that is developmentally appropriate.
Curbing the childhood obesity epidemic requires sustained political will, govt commitment and the collaboration of both private and public stakeholders.
It is therefore incumbent upon nations of the world to mobilize their resources and partners and start engaging themselves in implementing the larger global strategy on Nutrition and Physical activity that should be enable kids to adopt healthier lifestyles.