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Childhood obesity should be tackled early, say experts

Renuka Phadnis
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‘If obesity is not dealt with during the childhood, it continues into adulthood’

All study and no play:Children’s diets must be monitored and they must eat in moderation.— File PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL
All study and no play:Children’s diets must be monitored and they must eat in moderation.— File PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL

“Genetics loads the gun, obesity pulls the trigger” — that is how some doctors described, in a lighter vein, the role of heredity and excess weight, particularly among Indians, in playing host to a range of health issues. They said that obesity is a problem that has its origin early, and it must be tackled as early as in childhood, when it starts.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem, which needs to be addressed, they said. If obesity is not dealt with during childhood, it continues into adulthood. Along with other factors such as familial history, childhood obesity brings in several health problems.

“Studies have shown that childhood obesity is a marker for hypertension”, says Soundarya, Associate Professor, Paediatrics, Kasturba Medical College (KMC), told The Hindu . Genes, the weight of parents, the child’s eating habits, his or her lifestyle, the mode of transport and the socio-economic background of the family, all affect the weight of a child.

‘Alarming rate’

Ganesh, endocrinologist, A.J. Hospital, says childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. Of 100 obese children tested for hypothyroidism (which is one of the causes of obesity), five test positive. In the rest, the cause of obesity is incorrect lifestyles. The good part, however, is that childhood obesity is reversible, he says.

Role of parents

Says Dr. Ganesh: “Parents are not very much aware” of childhood obesity. Even if they are, they cannot do much about it because children often are forced into sedentary lives. They are either sitting in school or in tuition classes. They hardly get to play and there are no playgrounds available or accessible even if they want to play.

Dr. Soundarya says parents sometimes think doctors create an unnecessary fuss over a chubby child, who will probably outgrow his or her obesity. They think the child can be allowed to be plump till the age of six and seven and will be of the correct weight when he or she turns 12.

Wrong approach

However, the approach is wrong and a child must be of the expected weight right from childhood. While childhood obesity is reversible, its effects may not be reversible, she says.

Though schools do their part in creating awareness about obesity, the responsibility of ensuring that children do not grow obese begins at home, she says.

Reducing weight is very difficult among children, especially before adolescence, because they are unlike adults who are aware and understand that they must lose weight.

Monitoring

Children’s diets must be monitored and they must eat in moderation. No one is telling them to stop eating chips but they cannot eat one carrot and three bags of chips. Physical activity is of utmost importance.

While school, tuitions, television, computers and video games all contribute to an inactive lifestyle, children must go out and play. “No matter what you eat, work it out,” she says.


  • ‘Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate’

  • Studies link childhood obesity to hypertension


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