Obesity in Childhood: Causes, Impacts and Prevention

Although obesity may seem like a childhood problem, it is important for all individuals to note that, unless controlled, as a child grows, it can lead to many health complications in adulthood. In this regard, to help children avoid health problems that may result due to excessive weight gain, it is important for parents to insist on embracing good eating and living lifestyles. Parents can achieve this by ensuring that they spend substantial amounts of time with their children and guide them accordingly.

In addition to this, parents should emphasize on impacts of poor eating habits hence, urge their children to adopt preventive programs that reduce obesity risks. For example, in the early stages of a child’s development, parents should emphasize continuous exercises, adoption of good communication methodologies, and taking dietary precautions. Failure to guide children and control their living and eating habits can lead to many ailments, for example, heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and in extreme cases, death. Considering the nature of the adverse effects these health complications have in one’s life, it, therefore, becomes necessary for families and all caretakers to ensure good preventive measures, rather than waiting until a child’s health condition gets out of hand.

Introduction

The impacts of technology and new nutritional styles in the world have really changed people’s eating lifestyles. The scenario is even worse with the advent of industrialization, whereby, currently, the consumption of natural foods is becoming an old-fashioned thing; most individuals in the present time depend mostly on processed-packed foods. This largely has been the main contributing factor to the currently existing health complications, mostly to young children and young adults. This is because the majority of them have little knowledge of what it means to be physically healthy.

In addition, because parents are the primary determinants of their eating habits, most of them have failed to adopt and encourage good eating habits among their children. Interestingly, obesity is a health complication that results due to poor eating and living habits. This is a health condition that results due to excess or uncontrolled weight gain, primarily due to excessive fat buildup in body tissues. Most adult individuals can realize such changes in their body physique; however, to children, the case is different because they have little knowledge of what it means to be over-weight. In this regard, it is a parental duty to ensure they tame poor eating and living habits among their children; hence, control the excessive weight gain (Akhtar-Danesh, Dehgan &Merchant, 2005, p.1).

Consequences

As compared to other health complications, obesity is more prevalent almost in all societies, but children from developed countries are the most affected. The problem is even of more concern because most research studies on adulthood obesity show that there is a close linkage between childhood and adulthood obesity. In addition, because of the adverse nature of complications that result due to obesity, the whole issue is of great distress not only to families, but also to world health bodies, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Center for diseases Control (CDC) (World Health Organization, (n.d.), Para. 1-3).

Another main reason behind concern by global communities is because obesity as a health problem has many associated health complications, which are more severe to not only to children’s health but also to adults’ we-being. This is the case because any health complications that individuals undergo in their early childhood always have effects on late-life developments, whereby complications resulting from obesity are no exceptions.

Common health ailments associated with obesity include Hyperinsulinaemia, diabetes, cardiovascular complications, atherosclerosis, hypertension, asthma, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, it is important to note that, in uncontrolled or untamed cases of obesity, the likelihoods of early deaths are high, hence the need for all the concerned to critically change or modify the nature of lifestyle they adopt. (Bellizi, Cole, Dietz & Flegal, 2000, 1240-1243).

Diabetes is a health complication that results due to sugar accumulation in the body. The most common type of this type of health problem among many children who are overweight is type-2 diabetes. This is because the excess accumulation of fat in the body cause problems with glucose intolerance, hence accelerating the accumulation of glucose in the body. The fact that this type of diabetes has other related health complications, for example, loss of eyesight and kidney problems, makes obesity a more risky and dangerous health problem. Therefore, there is a need for the adoption of preventive measures before obesity goes beyond uncontrollable levels (Arslania, Hannon & Rao, 2005, pp 473-479)

Obesity can also cause serious cardiovascular problems to children in cases where the problem lacks early diagnosis and control. It is important to note that this problem is more common among adults, something that results from poor dietary control in childhood life (Fletcher, Grundy & Hayman, 1999, pp. 3-16). The majority of cardiovascular complications that can result due to excessive accumulation of fats in the body include hypertension, stroke, coronary health ailments, and other heart ailments (Deanfield &Whincup, 2005, pp. 432-433 and Fletcher, Krauss & Winston, 1998, Para. 8).

Sleeping apnea is the third common health complication that excessive accumulation of fats in the body can cause. This is a sleeping problem that results due to breathing disorders, which results due to the obstructive nature of the excessive accumulated fats in the body, more so in body sections near the neck. In most cases, this problem exhibited itself inform of loud snoring and disturbed breathing patterns, which make breathing through the nose a problem. The effects resulting from this condition are many and, in some cases, fatal to the general development of a child. This is because, in most scenarios, the problem results in many sleep disturbances leading to problems such as bed-wetting, agitated behavioral tendencies, and learning disorders among children and adults (Arens & Muzumdar, 2009, pp. 436-443).

Apart from the many health complications that result from obesity, the worst part of being obese comes with psychological torture. The majority of obese children face much discrimination from peers who are supposed to help them develop their self- esteem. Research studies show that, if the obesity problem persists into adulthood, the majority of individuals with this problem face many social-economic problems in their later life (Burniat, 2002, pp. 143). This is because society, in general, has a discriminatory tendency, whereby it considers most slim individuals fit for any occupation. The condition is worse when it comes to relationships and general social life. Most obese individuals lack spouses, a case that is more prevalent among obese women (Burniat, 2002, pp. 144- 145).

Causes

Primarily, obesity occurs due to energy disproportions in the body and imbalance in amounts of calories that individuals consume daily and the amounts processed or used by the body for crucial body processes such as the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and other process, for example, exercises. In addition, it occurs due to a combination of many factors that can be inborn, environmentally determined, or inherited (Mikhailovich & Morrison, 2005, p. 311).

The factors can be as a result of poor eating habits (nutritional), biological body problems, genetic problems (familial), or psychological problems. Parental lifestyles also have great influences on eating habits that most children adopt. In this regard, in most cases, children born with overweight parents have a high chance of having a problem. In addition, most parents fail to guide their children on the importance of exercise, something that results in excessive fats accumulation in the body. Reported obesity cases as a result of gene disorders are few, although as Akhtar-Danesh, Dehgan, and Merchant (2005, p.1) argues, lack of Leptin genes can lead to obesity-related disorders.

Although genetics may have a role to play as concerns obesity, the nature of lifestyles that children live is also a great contributor to the development of the condition. The majority of parents feed their children with high-calorie content foods, whereby most of them never consider the importance of exercise to reduce the accumulation of such calories. In addition, one’s surrounding environment greatly influences the nature of foods one consumes. Such effects are greater to children because most of them have an addiction to televisions, which have many advertisements that commend high caloric foods. Therefore, this prompts many children to ask for such foods, a fact that becomes worse in scenarios where parents have less control over what their children do.

Long – Life Impacts of Obesity

Although most individuals do not take the concept of child obesity seriously, it is important for everyone to note that a lack of control of obesity during childhood has many adverse effects as one enters into adulthood. As proved by researches of the World Health Organization, the most common lifelong impact of obesity include pre-mature deaths, marriage problems, and in some instances, disabilities. This is because the likelihood of obese children being the same in adulthood is high, and most of them lack control measures that are crucial in avoiding obesity.

Another common problem that can result as a child grows into adulthood is the occurrence of obesity-related health complications that include cardiovascular diseases such as heart failures, diabetes, and cancer (mostly colon, breast, and endometrial cancer). Research findings from WHO show that approximately two and a half million individuals die annually from health complications. This, therefore, shows the severity of the problem, because not only is obesity a health threat, but also it is an economic threat, primarily because of the dying young, energetic population (World Health Organization, 2010, p.1).

In addition to health problems, obesity has many other social problems when it comes to marriages and maintaining healthy relationships, which are crucial for survival in society. The majority of obese individuals face much discrimination in group interactions and jobs (for example, in the military). On the other hand, as Burniat (2002, p. 115) argues, due to the judgmental nature of most peers, the majority of obese children suffer psychological torture, hence the development of personality problems, which in most cases re-occur in adult life.

Obesity Prevention Strategies

Due to the adverse nature of problems that result from obesity, it is important for parents to adopt measures that will ensure they tame the rapid gaining of body weight. Although this may be hard due to varying lifestyle patterns adopted by individuals, it is important for all individuals to note that preventive medicine is better than curative medicine. The majority of parents have communication problems with their children as they concern obesity (Mikhailovich &Morrison, 2007, pp311-316).

This is a parental failure due to the fact that most parents have great influences on their children’s lifestyles; hence, it can help to control the condition. Therefore, for children to realize the exact impacts of their eating habits, it is important for parents to establish communication channels that will ensure their children know the effects of the lifestyles they have adopted, more so as concerns poor eating and living habits.

Physical activity is another important remedy for this disease. This is because, through physical activity, the body is able to utilize a substantial amount of calories, whose accumulation is the primary cause of obesity. Exercise should go hand in hand with the regulation of the sedentary behaviors, for example, too much watching of the television or playing of games that require no manual movements and energy use. In addition, parents must encourage exercise among their children, something they can achieve through developing workable exercise schedules for their children (Shanley &Thompson, 2006, pp. 74-94).

On the other hand, it is important to note that all of the above strategies are fruitless if individuals do not take dietary precautions. The majority of individuals love to take foods they perceive to be sweet. One thing that they fail to acknowledge is that most of those foods have very high calorie and fat content. In this regard, it is very important for parents to ensure they have control over their children’s diet; something, which they can achieve through discouraging foods with a lot of fats and calories and encouraging consumption of nutritive foods that are rich in important supplements that are necessary for a healthy body (Akhtar-Danesh, Dehgan, and Merchant, 2005, Para. 18-19).

Research and Data (Obesity Prevalence)

In normal circumstances majority of individuals never take the issue of obesity seriously due to the fact that its impacts are less on them. In addition, majority of individuals believe that obesity is a problem of developed countries, something which in reality is never the case. From research findings, obesity is more common among developed countries; however, developing countries too have had their share of effects resulting from obesity. For example, research conducted on the American natives in a time span of four years from 1999 revealed that almost sixteen percent of American children age 6-9 were obese.

From the same research findings, there was an increase in expenditure of almost 92 million on the treatment of obesity cases, when comparing such expenses between 1979 to1981 and 1997 to1991. When comparing countries, some developing countries such as Samoa had high percentages of children with obesity (74 %), which contrasted to U.S.’s and Chinas’ figures, which were 34 % and 2 %, respectively (Pakhare, 2007, p.1). Research by the Weight Awareness Association of America also ascertained such rapid increases among American children age 6-19, as shown in the graph below.

Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents ages 6-19 years
(Weight Awareness, 2010, p. 1)

In addition, research findings by the British Medical Association on England’s citizenry also proved that obesity is an increasing health problem associated with many problems; hence, the need for adoption of mitigating factors to tame the increase of the problem.

Owerlight children Trends in the last three decades

Obesity in children 2-15 in England
(British Medical Association, 2010, p.1)

Conclusion

In conclusion, due to many health complications, for example, diabetes, heart problems, some types of cancer, and atherosclerosis, it is important for both individuals, schools, governmental and non-governmental organizations to combine forces and tame the problem. This is because apart from health complications that obesity leads to, childhood obesity has many economic impacts on both individuals and countries in general as such populations enter adulthood. It is important for all individuals to note that familial influences are many as concerns development of obesity. Hence, it is important for all parents to ensure they encourage good eating and living habits, which include controlled calorie consumption and continuous exercises. This is because these are the simplest remedies when it comes to controlling obesity.

Reference List

Akhtar-Danesh, N., Dehgan, M., & Merchant, A. T. (2005). Childhood obesity, prevalence and prevention. Nutritional Journal, 4(24), Web.

Arens, R., & Muzumdar, H., (2009). Childhood obesity and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Journal of Applied Physiology, 108, 436-444. Web.

Arslanian, S. A., Hannon, T. S., & Rao, G. (2005). Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Pediatrics, 116(2), 473-480. Web.

Bellizi, M. C., Cole, T. J., Dietz, W. H. & Flegal, K. M. (2000). Establishing a standard definition for child Overweight and obesity worldwide. BMJ, 320, 1236-1240.Web.

British Medical Association. Child Obesity. BMA. Web.

Burniat, W. (2002). Child obesity: causes and consequences, prevention and management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Deanfield, P. H., & Whincup, J. E. (2005). Childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease: the Challenge ahead. Natural Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Med, 2(9), 432-433. Web.

Fletcher, B., Krass, R. M., Winston, M (1998). Obesity: impact on cardiovascular disease. Circulation, (98), 1472-1476. Web.

Fletcher, F. G., Grundy, M S., & Hayman, L. L. (1999). Obesity: impact on cardiovascular disease. New York: Future Publishing Company. Web.

Mikhailovich, K., & Morrison, P. (2005). Discussing childhood overweight and Obesity with parents: a healthy communication dilemma. Journal of Child Health Care, 11(4), 311-322.

Pakhare, J. (2007). Child Obesity statistics and Facts. Buzzle. Web.

Shanley, T. E., & Thompson, C. A. (2006). Overcoming childhood Obesity. Colorado: Bull Publications.

Weight Awareness. The severity and prevalence of child obesity. Weight Awareness. Web.

World Health Organization. Stop the Global epidemic of chronic disease. WHO. Web.