Childhood Obesity

Many​ ​parents​ ​may​ ​consider​ ​a child​ ​being​ ​overweight​​ ​to​ ​be​ ​normal, however,​ ​it​ ​can​ ​actually​ ​lead​ ​to various​ ​health problems,​ ​either​ ​physical​ ​or​ ​related​ ​to​ ​mental​ ​health​ ​(​low self-esteem​ ​and​ ​depression). So it’s important for parents to encourage their children to eat healthy and have healthy lifestyle habits in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Causes​ ​of​ ​Childhood​ ​Obesity

Childhood​ ​obesity​ ​ ​mostly​ ​stems​ ​from​ ​an​ ​imbalance​ ​between​ ​energy​ ​consumption and​ ​energy​ ​use, which results​ ​from​ ​several​ ​different​ ​factors including:

  • Eating​ and​ ​lifestyle habits​ ​–​ ​​ The​ ​consumption​ ​of​ ​high-energy​ ​foods​ ​or​ ​drinks combined​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​regular​ ​exercise.
  • Heredity​ ​–​ It​ ​has​ ​been​ ​found​ ​that​ ​children​ ​who​ ​have​ ​obese ​parents​ ​or siblings​ ​are​ ​more​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​be​ ​obese​ ​as well.​ ​Nowadays,​ ​however,​ ​it​ ​is believed​ ​that​ ​obesity​ ​is​ ​the​ ​product​ ​of​ ​both​ ​hereditary​ ​and​ ​environmental causes, such​ as​ ​diet​ ​and​ ​lifestyle.
  • Hormonal​ ​disorders​ ​–​ ​​ Hormone​ ​deficiency,​ ​hypothyroidism,​ ​and​ ​excess glucocorticoid​ ​hormones​ ​are​ ​hormonal​ ​disorders​ ​which​ ​are​ ​usually​ ​found​ ​in overweight​ ​children.
  • Diseases​ ​or​ ​syndromes​ ​–​ ​ ​Conditions​ ​such​ ​as​ ​​Prader​ ​Willi​ ​syndrome​ or​ ​​ pseudohypoparathyroidism​ ​​are​ ​often found in​ ​overweight​ ​and​ ​short​ ​statured​ ​children.

Childhood​ ​obesity​ ​can​ ​affect​ ​both​ ​a​ ​child’s​ ​physical​ ​and​ ​mental​ ​health​ ​in​ ​the following​ ​ways:

  • Dyslipidemia,​ ​​ which​ ​may​ ​lead​ ​to​ ​greater​ ​chances​ ​of​ ​cardiovascular​ ​diseases in​ ​adulthood
  • High​ ​blood​ ​pressure
  • Diabetes​ ​or​ ​metabolic​ ​disorders​ ​from​ ​consuming​ ​too​ ​many​ ​carbohydrates
  • Bone​ ​or​ ​joint​ ​disorders,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​​scoliosis​,​ ​​ bowed-leggedness​,​ ​or​ ​​flat​ ​feet
  • Skin​ ​conditions,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​fungal​ ​infections​ ​or​ ​a susceptibility​ ​to​ ​skin​ ​infections
  • Snoring​ ​and​ ​sleep​ ​apnea
  • Irregular​ ​menstruation​ ​in​ ​females,​ ​leading​ ​to​ ​infertility​ ​in​ ​adulthood
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common cause of liver disease in children
  • Low​ ​self-esteem​ ​and​ ​depression

If​ ​a​ ​child​ ​is​ ​found​ ​to​ ​be​ ​at​ ​risk​ ​of​ ​obesity,​ ​doctors​ ​may:

  • Calculate​ ​the​ ​child’s​ ​​Body​ ​Mass​ ​Index​ ​(BMI)​,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​the​ ​ratio​ ​between weight​ ​(kg)​ ​and​ ​height​ ​(​m​ 2​).​ ​The​ ​child’s​ ​BMI​ ​result​ ​is​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​the​ ​BMI chart​ ​according​ ​to​ ​age.​ ​If​ ​a​ ​child’s​ ​weight​ ​is​ ​over​ ​the​ ​95​th​​ ​percentile​ ​on​ ​the chart,​ ​they​ ​are​ ​considered​ ​obese.
  • Perform​ ​blood​ ​tests​ ​to​ ​check:
    • Cholesterol​ ​levels
    • Blood​ ​glucose​ ​levels​ ​after​ ​fasting
    • Hormone​ ​levels,​ ​which​ ​may​ ​be​ ​abnormal​ ​in​ ​obese​ ​or​ ​overweight children,​ ​such​ ​as thyroid​ ​and​ ​insulin levels

Please​ ​note​ ​that​ ​some​ ​blood​ ​tests​ ​require​ ​the​ ​patient​ ​to​ ​refrain​ ​from​ ​consuming food​ ​or​ ​water​ ​prior​ ​to​ ​the​ ​test.

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Children's (Pediatrics) Center

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