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Child hood obesity is a big problem in some countries with about 1 in 3 children classed as overweight or obese in the United States. Children may be said to be overweight if their BMI measurement is within the 85th-95th percentile for their age. If measurements exceed the 95th percentile, they are classed as obese. A simpler way to identify overweight or obese children is to measure the waist circumference and compare it with the height. In overweight or obese children, the waist circumference is greater than half the value of their height.

Health problems of obese children

Obesity is associated with many health issues. These include the following:

  • Tendency to obesity in adulthood: Children, who are obese, are much more likely to be obese as adults than those who are not.
  • Such children are at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes in later life.
  • Obesity in childhood is associated with an increased risk of asthma.
  • Obese children may suffer from feelings of low self-esteem.
  • They may also have bouts of depression.
  • There is an increased incidence of musculature problems in children who are obese.
  • They may be prone to hypertension in later life.

Possible causes of obesity in child hood

Some factors which are responsible for the onset of childhood obesity include the following:

  • Hereditary factors: children can have an inbuilt tendency toward obesity, inherited from parents.
  • Environmental factors: many factors in a child’s surroundings can result in an increased tendency toward childhood obesity. These could be: obese siblings or parents, poor dietary habits in the home, etc.
  • A sedentary lifestyle with reduced physical activity can also result in obesity. This could result from much time spent before television or computer screens with fewer out door activities.
  • Emotional disturbances in a child could lead to dietary problems such as over eating.

How to handle obesity in a child

There are some steps that may be taken in the management of a child with obesity. These are:

  • Support by family and care givers
  • Healthier diet for the child
  • Increasing physical activity and exercise
  • Input by experts

Support: it is very important that the obese child receive some form of encouragement, because they often struggle with depression and feelings of poor self esteem. The support could involve continual affirmation by care givers and the adoption of a healthy diet by the whole family, which makes it easier for the obese child to cope with changes. The whole family can also arrange joint out door fun activities.

Healthier diet for the child: This can involve the following:

  • Promotion of healthy snacking
  • Eliminating fast foods and sugary drinks
  • Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables
  • not using foods like sweets  as a reward system
  •  Teaching healthy eating habits
  • Careful shopping by parents to ensure that only healthy food items are purchased
  • Cutting down on fats and sugars
  • Replacing soft drinks with healthier alternatives
  • Using Low fat dairy products

Increasing physical activity and exercise: The obese child should be encouraged to spend more time in outdoor activities.  Time spent on television and computer games should be reduced.

Involving experts: The support and advice of professionals like nutritionists, child psychologists, doctors etc, may be needed to correctly manage some cases of childhood obesity.

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