Obesity, overweight among school-going children a concern

‘Reduction in physical activity coupled with excess intake of food is the main reason for trend’

Incidents of obesity is said to be on an increasing trend in many cities. An ongoing study named ‘Childhood Obesity Prevention in Schools’ (COPS) has come out with alarming results on obesity in school-going children in Coimbatore.

Of the 16,000-odd school students aged between eight and 16 screened as part of the study, 12 % were found obese while 16 % were overweight based on Body Mass Index (BMI), which calculates the weight-for-height for classification.

As per WHO standards, BMI above 30 is considered as obesity while index between 25 and 30 is considered as overweight for adults. As COPS covers minors, the BMI was calculated based on the growth chart prepared by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics for Indian children.

Jointly conducted by Young Indians, Gem Hospital, and Avinashilingam University for Women, and COPS, it covers schools in private as well as Government sectors. In the last one year, the team has conducted screenings in 25 schools in the district that extended cooperation for the study.

“BMI of the students were primarily checked to find the risks of overweight and obesity. The result is alarming. The main aim of the study is to let parents and teachers know the risk factor of obesity among children and prevent further risks at the early stage,” says Praveen Raj, head of the Department of Bariatric Surgery at Gem Hospital, a key person behind the study which aims to screen a total number of 1.5 lakh students in another two years.

The study also aims to educate parents and teachers that obesity and overweight can be prevented, thus not putting them at the risk of associated diseases like type 2 diabetes, accumulation of high cholesterol, and menstrual problem in girls to name a few.

“If left unattended and uncontrolled, obese children may soon develop associated diseases and conditions. Those who are overweight may become obese too,” says Dr. Raj.

Reduction in physical activity coupled with excess intake of food, supplying more calories than the body needs, is the main reason for trend, says G. Krishna Shankar, consultant adult and paediatric endocrinologist attached to Sri Ramakrishna Hospital.

“If not burned, every 100 kilocalorie of energy consumed (equal to the energy contained in an idli) per day can lead to increase of 100g in ones body per month. The consequences will be high incidences of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and early incidence of heart attack,” he says.

According to him, to prevent obesity in children, the family itself should have a diet plan and not force the children alone into dieting.

“At least 30 minutes of physical activity for five days a week is must to balance the energy intake and burning of unused calories,” he adds.

According S. Uma Mageshwari, head of the Department of Food service Management and Dietetics at Avinashilingam University, regular intake of high calories and processed food in the absence of physical activity was causing obesity among school going children.

“Students live in an obesogenic environment where they are exposed more to processed food, high salted/sugared snacks and carbonised beverages with high calories than natural foods. When there is a lack of physical activity, the extra calories get converted to fat in the body. Students also tend to consume more of such items for peer group acceptance,” she adds.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:03:54 AM |

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