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Prevention of Obesity in Children and Teenagers

Obesity is now a disease that plagues millions of people around the world. It continues to affect ever increasing numbers of children, teens and adults. Research conducted by WHO shows that obesity rates among children globally have doubled since 1980 and have tripled for teenagers. The research also highlighted that approximately 17% of the children aged between 2 to 19 suffer from obesity. This is a stark comparison with adults who account for 35%.

 

Now, more than ever, healthcare professionals are reporting about heart and blood vessel disease, earlier onset of type 2 diabetes, obesity-related depression and social isolation in children and teens. The more time a person suffers from obesity the more significant obesity related risk factors tend to become. It is prudent that the conditions associated with obesity are an indicator of how hard it is to treat obesity, this is why prevention is of utmost importance. 

Obesity Prevention in Children and Teenagers

One of the main reasons for the prevention of obesity in children is that the likelihood of obesity continuing onto their adulthood increases as the child continues to age. This puts the children suffering from obesity at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC highlighted that breastfed babies are at a lesser risk of growing up with obesity. The report also states that the longer babies are breastfed, the least likely they are to suffer from obesity. However, it is not a necessary indication that if your child was a formula baby, they won’t grow up to be of a healthy weight.  

It is not a hidden fact that young people tend to be overweight because of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity in their daily regimen. However, genetics and lifestyle are also an essential contributor in the weight of a child. 

Recommendations regarding prevention of obesity during childhood and teens are:

  • Work towards changing your family’s eating habits and activity levels instead of emphasizing upon the said child’s weight. 
  • Be the role model for your children. Parents who eat healthy and participate in physical activities set an example for their child to mimic them.
  • Be more encouraging about physical activity. Growing children should atleast have 60 minutes of moderate physical activity for at least 5 days a week. More than 60 minutes of an activity promotes weight loss and contributes towards weight maintenance 
  • Work towards reducing screen time of your children. Limit the usage of television, ipad, phones and computers to 1 to 2 hours a day at the maximum. 
  • Be more encouraging about eating only when hungry and avoiding binge eating.
  • Instill in your children to eat their food slowly instead of gobbling it down. 
  • Avoid using food as a means of rewards and do not withhold food from your child as a form of punishment. 
  • Work towards keeping your refrigerator stocked with fat free and low fat milk, fresh fruit, and vegetables instead of snacks and  junk food that are high in sugar and fat both. 
  • Try and serve at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables throughout the day, like some pieces of watermelon or slices of carrots. 
  • Encourage your children to lay off soft drinks and to drink water as much as they can. Avoid bottled juices as they are high in sugar and calories. 
  • Incorporate whole grain foods such as brown rice and whole wheat bread into their diet. 
  • Avoid high processed foods refined with white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and saturated fat. 
  • Try and avoid food that is high in “energy density,” these foods are your cheeseburgers and your fried chicken. An average store bought burger with a side of fries has an average of 1000 calories and almost 30 grams of fat. Cutting down on junk food goes a long way. 

Today, childhood obesity constitutes one of the most serious health concerns in developing and under-developed countries both. Children suffering from obesity are much more susceptible to a multitude of chronic diseases such as the likes of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, osteoporosis and certain carcinomas as well. Childhood obesity also contributes towards degrading mental health and can cause various social problems for the said child. Over the last 30 years, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased exponentially. We need to work together in order to help children suffering from obesity and work towards its prevention from the very inception. 

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