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Child Obesity

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

"What is Child Obesity?" Childhood obesity is when excess fat is in the body at a very young age. This is different from being overweight, as the latter refers to a state where the excess amount of fat in the body is evenly distributed throughout the body. When we talk about childhood obesity, it is usually caused by an unhealthy diet or lifestyle, genetics, or a combination of both. Fat cells form when we consume more calories than we burn. When these fat cells are not burned off, they are stored in the body. When this happens to a large extent in childhood, it can have lasting effects on physical and psychological health.


In today’s digital world, kids are growing up and getting older much faster. Most have access to mobile phones and the internet from a very young age. Parents tend to be more concerned about what their children watch on television rather than being conscious about their health and fitness. Even though parents take away the gadgets to try to limit their screen usage, this does not really give the children any motivation to go out and play (which naturally, burns calories). However, it is important to understand that all these seemingly unimportant decisions will impact the child’s health and well-being in the long run. With that being said, let us dive right into the causes and impacts child obesity has on the lives of children.



Causes of Childhood Obesity in India

There are several causes of childhood obesity. Some of them are as follows:

  • The change in lifestyle and a lack of exercise

  • The majority of children spend a lot of time playing video games or watching television

  • A reduction in outdoor play

  • A change in dietary habits

  • Increased reliance on processed and junk food

  • A lack of attention from parents

Adolescents spend a considerable amount of time (4-5 hours) on their smartphones and are exposed to various media content. This could affect their emotional health, interpersonal relationships, and media literacy.

Lockdowns and covid-19 have deepened these causes: due to limited outdoor time in 2020 - 2021, children started to shave their lifestyles by just sitting and staying in their comfort zone. They had their favorite snack by their side, video game on the other, and the television in front. This not only has impacted the children's physical health but also their mental health.


Impact of Childhood Obesity

The impact of childhood obesity is far-reaching and can seriously affect a child’s health and well-being in the long run. Some of the most common impacts of childhood obesity are as follows:

  • Increased risk of mental illness

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Increased risk of diabetes

  • Poor/decreased academic performance

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

  • Increased risk of asthma

  • Shortened life expectancy

  • Obesity-related cancers

  • Poor social skills

Long-term effects of childhood obesity can continue into adulthood and increase the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

However, the good news is that children who lose weight and remain healthy can reduce their risk of chronic diseases as adults. Due to a high metabolism in most children and young adults, they can comfortably get back into the routine of exercising and eating healthy. Their fat would spontaneously reduce, making them not only look better but also feel better. One solution that can be done by parents/guardians is to actively engage with their children as they go out to play. Give the children words of affirmation, appreciate them, and cherish the fact that they spent half an hour (maybe even more) being productive instead of sitting on the couch with their gadgets. They could play a direct role in their child's journey, rather than just being a restriction barrier that limits every bit of enjoyment the child has. This would motivate any child to get up the next day feeling excited about dropping the phone down and spending time with his/her family. .Remember,

"the person who loves walking walks further than the person that loves the destination"

If children fall in love with the process of playing outside and exercising once again (like they did pre-pandemic), the numbers will surely reduce worldwide, especially in India.




The Statistics of Childhood Obesity in India

The alarming statistics regarding childhood obesity in India cause concern for all. The figures have been steadily increasing over the past few years, and the numbers are not good. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of childhood obesity in India has increased from 10.6% in 2004 to 17.0% in 2016. Further, it is estimated that the number of obese children in India will increase by 50% by 2030. It is also important to note that obesity is not just limited to urban areas but also in rural areas! The most recent data (2020) shows that around 8.52 million children under five are overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity among boys is higher than among girls in all age groups.


Conclusion

The statistics regarding childhood obesity in India are alarming. Parents need to understand that childhood obesity can have a lasting effect on their child’s health and well-being in the long run. It is important to limit your child’s time watching television or playing video games and ensure that they exercise adequately.


- Aditya Saxena

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