Childhood obesity rising shockingly high; technology and poor lifestyle to be blamed

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Childhood obesity rising shockingly high; technology and poor lifestyle to be blamed

Obesity is a very complex and multifactorial disease. Overeating and poor lifestyle are not the only causes of weight gain as genes and body metabolism also play a very important role. Obese people may find it very difficult to lose weight and even more difficult to sustain the weight loss. It has also become the major root cause of many serious health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac problems, joint pains, sleeping disorders, infertility and increased chances of cancer. Obesity in children is an epidemic today, causing early morbidity in the form of hypertension, diabetes, fatty liver. Though obesity in children has risen many folds in all the countries over the world, much higher in a developing country like India. 

The major reason being a rapid increase in urbanization and industrialization in our country. India has the second highest number of obese children in the world after China, according to a study that has found that 14.4 million children in the country have excess weight. The pooled data after 2010 estimated a combined prevalence of 19.3 per cent of childhood overweight and obesity which was a significant increase from the earlier prevalence of 16.3 per cent reported in 2001-2005. One study shows that overweight and obesity rates in children and adolescents are increasing not just among the higher socio-economic groups but also in the lower income groups where underweight remains a major concern. The main reason for this change is the availability of high calorie, unhealthy food at cheaper rates, marketing of packaged foods, media exposure. Also, healthy foods like vegetables and fruits are about 8 to 10 times more expensive than the junk food in the market.

On, World Anti-Obesity Day, Dr Vaishakhi Rustagi, Consultant- Pediatric Endocrinology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, said, “researchers have found over two billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these non-communicable health conditions. It is not uncommon to find obese families blame their genes as the cause of obesity, the truth being inactivity and faulty diet is consumed by the whole family. The causes of obesity in children are the increasing portion sizes over the years. Lack of inadequate physical activity has also contributed significantly to obesity, causes being safety concerns, few chances for overweight youth to participate in sports, many local fast-food restaurants. Also, with the technology getting advanced, the average screen time of children is also increasing. Screen time is no longer just TV watching but also the time spent by children on computers, iPad, video games and mobiles. On average adolescents these days spend about 5-6 hours approximately on the screen which is about five times the recommended screen time. For each hour of screen view, prevalence of obesity increases by 2% in children.”It is important to address obesity as early as possible to avoid the consequences like hypertension, diabetes mellitus. lipid disorders, menstrual irregularities, snoring, poor self-esteem and depression. Interventions need to be taken to reduce this burden of obesity in children right from pregnancy to the adolescent age group. Simple interventions like promoting exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of life, nutritional advise in infancy, inculcating healthy eating habits in the first few years of life would be the cornerstones in management of obesity. The family, schools and health care policies must work together to fight the menace of obesity in children.

Neeraj Vats

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