3 Major Factors of Childhood Obesity & Its Consequences

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Medical Reviewed by Sindhu Vas, Masters in Nutrition and Food science

A chubby child or even a plump teenager is no longer considered a healthy child! Changes in diet coupled with inactive lifestyles have sparked off child obesity in almost all countries and India is no exception.

Child obesity is a major risk factor for adult obesity and it’s associated with chronic killer diseases. Worried your child or teenager might be overweight or obese?

Here is a way to check, try the Possible’s BMI check and find out. 

Table Of Contents

Causes of Child Obesity

There are numerous reasons why a child may be obese; it can be medical or generic. In most cases, a child can be obese due to a sedentary lifestyle and eating unhealthy food.

Reasons why your child are becoming obese include

  • Medical conditions: Medical conditions can be a reason for your child becoming obese. Conditions like hypothyroidism and hormonal balances could lead to obesity.
  • Environmental factors: If your child has easy access to junk food, few opportunities for physical activities and consuming high-calorie foods could be the reason.
  • Behavioural Factors: Spending a lot of time in front of the television or mobile phones and eating huge portions of junk food and involving less in physical activities.
  • Medications: If your child is under medications like steroids, antidepressants and more.
  • Genetics: If the parents are obese, there are high chances that the child will be obese, however, genes necessarily do not determine the child’s destiny but one should take care from an early stage.

Factors that contribute to childhood obesity

Obesity in children is one of the rising concerns in today’s time. While lifestyle is the prime reason for this one, there can be other factors too. There are 3 main factors that may cause child obesity. We list them down for you.

1) Lack of Physical Activity/Sedentary Lifestyle

In today’s time, children are always glued to the TV screen or smartphones. This result in a sedentary lifestyle.

Our children are moving towards an inactive lifestyle that is making very easy for them to put on weight. In this case, parents are supposed to play a key role.

It is advised that they take proper care to incorporate more outdoor activities in their children’s lives and make them use phones/tablets in a certain limit. [1] So keep those video games at bay and ask your kids to enjoy the sun during the day!

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2) Heredity and Family

Obesity in children can be a hereditary thing too. The abnormal body weight gain can be a result of the child’s gene pool. In new research published in the International Journal of Obesity, it was said that genetics indeed play a key role in influencing childhood obesity.

There are many findings that show how we carry genes that may be responsible for explaining body weight. These studies support that children of obese parents are likely to carry obesity through heredity. [2

3) Unhealthy Dietary Habits

Today kids are so much indulged with junk foods, that childhood obesity isn’t a surprise actually. And because of the busy schedules of the parents, junks in the form of shortcuts are always welcomed.

However, this works like a slow poison. The fires, the nuggets, the burgers are the culprits of your child weight gain. So try to find ways to let them have a well planned healthy diet.

Here’s something that can help you to change junk foods to healthy ones. Also, here’s a balanced diet plan for kids, to help to keep up their healthy eating routine.

Balanced diet for Kids with healthy Junk Foods
A balanced diet for Kids with healthy Junk Foods

Consequences of Childhood Obesity

Obesity in children can lead to a number of health concerns. That is why it is very much important to keep an eye if your kid is healthy or gaining abnormal weight.

  • Adult Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cancer
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Heart Disease
  • Bone-Joint problems/Gout
  • Non- Alcoholic Fatty liver Disease (NAFLD)
Child Obesity Causes
Child Obesity Causes

Today, more and more obese children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other co-morbid conditions. Almost 75% of obese children grow up as obese adults, whereas only 10% of the normal weight children do the same.

Almost half of the obese children are having fatty liver. Research shows that along with sedentary lifestyle and obesity, high fructose intake primarily in the form of soft drinks as a key contributor to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children.

There is also a strong association of visceral adiposity and NAFLD as every 5 cm increase in waist circumference almost double the risk for NAFLD.

Some scary child obesity facts:

Nearly 75% of obese children grow up to be obese adults. And almost half of the obese children end up suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Psychological Complications of Childhood Obesity

An obese child doesn’t just face a huge weight to carry, there are other factors that come into play and losing confidence is one of them. Childhood obesity brings along many psychological side-effects in the kid.

1) Low Self Esteem
2) Increased loneliness and sadness
3) Depression
4) Poor Academic Performance
5) Victims of discrimination and social stigmatization
5) Lack of self-confidence and victims of bullying in school.

Obese kids get tired easily due to a hormonal/nutritional imbalance in the body, which again leads to a sedentary lifestyle and thus the vicious cycle of obesity continues.

child obesity effects
What are the effects of childhood obesity? Image courtesy: The Lancet journal

Tips to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Establishing a healthy number of fat cells during childhood/adolescence is very critical in the prevention of adult obesity.

  • Parents should take special care to make sure that their children follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • Parents should encourage their children to walk, cycle and to be involved in physically active games/sports.
  • They should totally discourage sedentary habits in children like spending a lot of time using mobile phones, TV etc.
  • Parents should set an example to their children at home by incorporating healthy eating habits and lifestyle modifications.
  • Care must be given to strictly avoid unhealthy fast foods with empty calories and no nutritional value.
  • School authorities should take extra care to provide healthy alternatives in the school canteen and to give extra physical education hours in the school curriculum.

The Fat Cell Theory

According to the fat cell theory, each person is born with a fixed number of fat cells.

If overeating or unhealthy eating habits continue during childhood and adolescence, and the existing fat cells get enlarged and reach the upper limit of their storage capacity (hypertrophy), cell proliferation is triggered again that new fat cells are created (hyperplasia) in order to store the additional fat.

As per the study was done at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, weight gain during adulthood happens only due to an increase in the size of fat cells. Once created, fat cells do not reduce, even if body weight and body fats are lost.

Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells that normally keeps appetites in check and boosts metabolism, but the abundance of fat cells leads to increased leptin secretion and eventually leptin resistance, which is practically leading to a state of leptin deficiency. With leptin in short supply, people eat more and their numerous fat cells become swollen with extra lipids.

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Take the case of 15-year old Riddhiman. He remembers his school days as missing out on most of the activities and fun due to his obese status.

Then Possible came into his life and voila! His life turned around for the best! He lost 21 kilos and now leads his life like any other teenager.

Riddhiman is one of the guys who broke the vicious cycle of childhood obesity. Read the entire story here

Remember, all those samosas, fries and colas could make it harder for you to shed kilos years later in life!

Submitted By,
Dr.Ambily Kushal
Lead Nutritionist, Possible

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