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Child obesity is on the rise, say doctors

AFSHAN YASMEEN
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18 per cent of children below seven years are obese: study

Even as doctors worry that most children do not enjoy a “lean childhood” these days, a recent study has confirmed that obesity among children is on the rise even before they reach adolescence.

The health of children in the country has become a serious subject of discussion with the study revealing that 18 per cent of children below the age of seven are obese.

The study was conducted by Bangalore-based EduSports on 4,098 schoolchildren from 21 schools across the country, including from Bangalore and Mangalore.

The findings reveal that 25 per cent of children over eight and 18 per cent of children below seven are obese and overweight. Nearly 23 per cent of the children between five and 14 had a high Body Mass Index (BMI), said the study, adding that abnormal BMI also reflected lower flexibility, muscle strength and endurance levels.

Anti-obesity Day

In such a situation, a campaign against obesity is much needed and November 26 was dedicated as Anti-Obesity Day in India.

Endocrinologist Mala Dharmalingam and Swarna Rekha Bhat, paediatrician, at the St. John's Medical College and Hospital in Bangalore, say they have observed a steady increase in the number of obese children in the last three years.

The reasons

“I often see five and six-year-olds who are three times their ideal body weight. Eating food that is high in fat and sugar, especially between meals, contributes significantly to children putting on weight. Lack of playgrounds in most schools is an added risk factor,” Dr. Dharmalingam says.

It is unfortunate that most eateries on school campuses sell mostly junk food, she says, and adds that educational institutions should put in place stringent regulations to check this.

Lack of exercise

Dr. Bhat says the lack of exercise and physical activity among children, and the habit of sitting for hours in front of the television are the main reasons for children becoming overweight.

“We hardly see any children walking to school these days. Parents should encourage children to play,” she says. “We advise parents to follow the traffic light concept in feeding their children. While the green light signifies vegetables and fruits that must be consumed generously, red is for meat and oily food, which should be avoided. Yellow stands for cereals and pulses which should be moderately taken,” Dr. Bhat says.

Obesity has a deep impact on a person's life. Being obese increases the chances of developing potentially fatal health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancers. Apart from lethargy, obese people have low self-esteem and may also suffer from depression. They can also develop knee pain, back ache, headache and related ailments.

“To check diabetes, we have to control obesity. Darkening of the skin on the nape of the neck and an increasing waist circumference in children are signs of obesity. They are also indications of such children being prone to diabetes,” Dr. Dharamalingam says.

AFSHAN YASMEEN

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