Nutrition: Fighting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Childhood obesity is defined variably as the condition of excessive body fat in children that adversely his/her health. It has been cited as a serious health concern issue in many countries. BMI, which is an acronym for Body Mass Index, is popularly used to measure obesity. This index varies with age and sex and is measured as weight in kilograms divided by body height measured in meter squared.
Many diseases that include and not limited to heart problems, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and other disorders are some of the manifestations of obesity. Other such complications include various forms of respiratory disorders, early puberty, diseases of the liver and kidney, and insomnia of sleeplessness. (Brener et al. 1867).
In many instances, the obese children undergo various forms of discrimination from their peers who tease and make fun of them and in some serious cases, are harassed and discriminated against by close friends and family members.
This has a definite effect on them because it goes a long way to work on their self-esteem. There are various management issues cited to prevent and reduce obesity. This ranges from lifestyle and medication.
Lifestyles such as regulation of a number of hours children watch TV, exercising, regulating advertising and marketing promoting foodstuff to youth and the right parental influences Breastfeeding is highly recommended for infants to provide the necessary nutrients and protection against obesity in future.
There is no medication currently approved for obesity, but Orlistat and Sibutramine are highly recommended in managing moderate obesity in adolescence; Sibutramine is recommended for children over 16 years and works by altering the brain’s chemistry and reducing appetite, while Orlistat is recommended for children under 12 years.
The medication plays a significant role in inhibiting the absorption of fats by the intestines; thereby, the fat is excreted instead of getting into the body system where it is stored leading o obesity (Pool 119).
Who is to blame?
Over the years, no single factor has been exclusively attributed to the cause of obesity, but the causes are myriad and intertwined. Dietary factors include issues such as soft drinks and fast-food restaurants’ eating habits. In one research that was conducted for a period of 19 months where a total of 548 children who consumed soft drinks were studied, it was observed that there was an increase of about 1.6% for every soft drink taken per day.
Sedentary factors also contribute a lot as children who fail to engage in regular physical exercises are at higher risk of being obese.
Many children, and especially with the advent of TV, computer games, and other technologically related activities, do not engage in any meaningful physical activity.
This sees them embroiled in the stationery activities for long periods at the expense of exercises, increasing the chances of becoming obese. Socio-economic factors are also said to be a cause of obesity, with well to families who can afford TVs, Computers and Video games for their children highly affected.
Nevertheless, some other causes of obesity are genetically or environmentally predisposed, and in such instances, nothing much can be done. Polymorphisms that exist within certain genes that are responsible for appetite control and metabolism influence the occurrence of obesity, especially when sufficient calories are present. The environment that exists in the home also has some bearing on instances of obesity.
The choice of family meals is a major contributor. Various studies have continued to reveal the influence of parents on childhood obesity; for example, one study on about 18,177 children between the ages of 11-21 years revealed that in every four parents in every four allowed the children to make their own food decisions. Medical illnesses and also psychological factors contribute to obesity in some ways (Hedley et al. 2849).
Solution to Obesity
It is always known for a fact that to gain those extra pounds is one of the easiest things that could happen to anyone; indeed, obesity is at arm’s length- from the table to the mouth. And this where my solution starts from, many of the children who eat do this while watching television; thus, this happens when they are inactive in some ways.
The solution that I would propose should be holistic in nature in the sense that it should include all the stakeholders in the life of the child. Therefore it should incorporate first the principal who is the child, then the parent, and finally, the teacher (Mazel et al. 33).
Snacks available should be low fat and low in sugar content
Fruits and vegetables should occupy a better percentage of the food
Should utilize the Food Guide Pyramid to device the type of food to be eaten
Should be active in something you like doing like dancing, swimming and jumping rope
Engage in at least 1 hour of physical activity in several days in the week.
Control the time spent on TV and computers; this is because this reduces physical activity and increases the consumption of high-calorie snacks. The limit should be 1-2 hours per day of computer, TV, and another electronic equipment usage as per the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The children should be offered more healthy diets like fruits and vegetables, yogurts devoid of soda, chips, and cookies.
Encourage the children to get actively involved in sports that they enjoy and make them active.
Television watch during mealtimes should be highly discouraged.
Encourage family mealtimes at the dinner table.
Eating from fast food should be limited to the bare minimum and should be avoided at all costs.
Food should not be used as a prescription to punish or reward.
This plan, I believe, can be effective because rather than coercing the child to desist from the habit of overeating junk food, it helps the child to be active in other physical activities taking him/her away from the TV or computer games. The parent also is actively involved as one of the major stakeholders who will be responsible for ensuring the right environment and the necessary equipment is readily available.
Brener ND, Eaton DK, Lowry R, et al. The association between weight perception and BMI among high school students. Obes Res. 2004;12(11):1866-1874.
Fumento, Michael. The Fat of the Land: Our Health Crises and How Overweight Americans can Help Themselves. New York: Penguin Books. (1997)12-77
Hedley AA, Ogden CL, Johnson CJ, et al. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999–2002. JAMA. 2004;291(23):2847 2850.
Mazel, Judy,& Monaco, John E. ,Sobell, Sheila: Slim & Fit Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Fast-Food World: Paperback Publisher: Health Communications (1999) 28-49
Pool, Robert. Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 123-133. (2001) 112-119
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