Chubby Children may develop serious health conditions in later life

Doctors advocate screening of children for obesity

New Delhi: Indian population is teeming with chubby children. It is a cause of concern because obesity in childhood is a prelude to obesity in adult age. Screening children for obesity is being strongly advocated by paediatricians.

Child specialists say that intervention should start early in life to keep obesity at bay in adulthood. Obesity leads to a number of non communicable diseases, so childhood overweight should be treated as a wake- up call. Childhood obesity has assumed such an epidemic proportion that doctors have called for screening of children and adolescents.

Overweight childhood is becoming an epidemic worldwide and is being seen as a major health problem. Obesity is occurring so much among certain groups of children that doctors advice that children and adolescents aged between 6 to 18 should be screened for obesity. And this occurs mostly due to faulty lifestyle, overfeeding, wrong eating habits, less daily physical activity and mistaken standard of living etc. They have turned into veritable couch potatoes. It is recommended that BMI of a child should be checked once in 6 months or at least annually so that child`s development parameters could be analysed for health. Maintaining the weight and height chart would be helpful to a great extent. On the basis of this chart, Paediatricians and parents can easily assess the healthy development of the child.

Dr. Atul N C Peters, Director –Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery, Fortis Hospital says, “As per surveys, about 9% – 5 % of school going children are obese. Every month 5-8 obese or overweight children come to our hospital and the numbers are alarmingly increasing every passing year. About 22% boys and 19 % of girls in the given school going population suffer from obesity. The reason behind this is the level of dietary (junk and fatty foods) intake in comparison with the level of activity (Exercise)”.

It is highly recommended by Dr. Atul N C Peters that a timely (at least annually) check up by paediatricians shall help the parents ascertain the healthy development of the child. Obese children may show signs of low esteem than their thinner peers, may face teasing at school and fear of discrimination. Type 2 diabetes, Sleep Apnea and knee or hip pain, high cholesterol, abnormal liver enzymes, asthma, skin conditions and headache are possible symptoms to look for.

Dr Atul N C Peters adds further that “Diet is the mainstay of child`s healthy development. Along with having a balanced nutritious diet, it is equally important to have a regular opinion from the paediatrician/dietician for necessary changes in diet and finding deficiency in a given child. Healthy eating habits would not just include eating on time; it also incorporates encouraging the child to eat at home and ensuring a correct portion size. Apart from the main healthy meal, snacks like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy foods do play a vital role. ”

Increasing awareness about the dangers of obesity later on is the way forward. So, health education needs to be a crucial component in the ideal development for children. Children need to be educated in wellness both at school and at home. Parents should lead by example, be it yoga or sports. Physical activity in children is a must to prevent obesity and, in turn, save them from non communicable diseases.

As per various studies conducted, a child with one of the parents being obese has a 50 percent chance of being obese. When both parents are obese, there is 80 percent chance of child becoming obese. However, genetic causes like Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome are known entities leading to obesity in children. So, obese couple can work on reducing weight by exercising, dieting or bariatric surgery prior to conception, so that new born newborn does not inherit obesity from them. In genetic cases, early detection with various genetic analyses in consultation with pediatrician is recommended for a healthy life.

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