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Childhood obesity is not a matter of cuteness or one to be admired. It is a serious medical and health issue. Obesity in children and adolescents is a substantial medical problem today. Children who have above the healthy weight for their age and height come into the category of obese children.

Health problems which were once considered as exclusive adult-oriented are now embracing children mainly due to obesity. Health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol now affect obese children. Many of these overweight children grow into obese adults, especially when one or both their parents are obese.

On the psychological front, childhood obesity can lead to poor self-esteem and depression.

The whole family has to be involved in tackling childhood obesity. The family can improve its eating and exercise habits and thus influence the change in obese children. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps in protecting the child’s health in the present and as the child grows in the future.

What are the symptoms of childhood obesity?

Some extra pounds in a child does not mean the child is overweight or obese. Some children tend to have a larger frame and children typically carry different amounts of body fat at various stages of development. Hence it is not possible to know whether a child is obese or not just by the looks.

The best possible way is to use the BMI calculation, which provides the optimum weight to height measurement based on accepted guidelines. The doctor may also use growth charts, the BMI guidelines and any other appropriate tools and tests to diagnose whether the child’s weight is a health risk.

When to consult a doctor?

Watch your child’s weight and see if too much weight is being put on. If you see any change in the weight which is causing concern then consult your doctor. The doctor will check the child’s history of growth and development, family history of weight gain and compare the child’s growth chart. This will help determine if the child’s weight is unhealthy.

What causes childhood obesity?

Too little activity and too many calories from food and drinks is the primary reason for childhood obesity. Apart from these, specific genetic and hormonal reasons, family history and any other underlying health problem can also causes weight gain.

Recent research has found that changes in digestive hormones can affect the body’s signals that let a child know when it is full.

Health complications of child obesity

Childhood obesity will give rise to several physical, social and emotional problems for your child. Some of these complications include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep disorders, fatty liver and bone fractures due to body weight and falls. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, behaviour and learning problem, poor social skills and, at times, depression.

How to prevent childhood obesity?

Parents have to take the responsibility to see that the child always maintains an optimum weight and does not overshoot the limits. You can limit the child’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or avoid them altogether, provide the   child plenty of fruits and vegetables, eat meals as a family as far as possible, limit eating ooout especially at fast food joints, teach the child to make healthier food choices, adjust the portion sizes according to age, limit TV time to less than 2 hours and ensure the child gets enough of sleep.

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