Obesity defined on a background of a young african girl holding out an apple
28/01/2019 By AskAwayHealth

5 Top Tips to prevent Obesity in Children

By Dr Temitope Olayinka

Obesity defined on a background of a young african girl holding out an apple

In today’s article, we look at practical methods we can take to help prevent obesity in children.

Childhood obesity has become an increasing global problem affecting both developed and developing countries.1

The world Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as at 2016 over 41 million children below the age of five (5) were obese -with almost half of this number living in Asia and a quarter living in Africa2.


Defining Terms

An obese child is a child with weight greater than the healthy weight for his or her height and age thereby, posing health risks.

Obesity is abnormal, excessive fat accumulation that presents a health risk.

World Health Organisation

Your health care provider can diagnose obesity in your child during your well-baby visits.

Keeping track of the weight and size of older children is also important using home scales or at the clinic.


Risks from Obesity in Children

Unhealthy  diet by ArtsyBee
ArtsyBee from Pixabay

Neglecting to treat this condition can increase their risk of various conditions as discussed in the previous article including cardiovascular disease, psychological consequences and obesity in adulthood.

Prevention is better than cure and this saying is applicable to obesity in children3.

Effective prevention of obesity in your young child involves tackling those things that cause obesity in the first place.


What Causes Obesity?

The causes of obesity in children could be hereditary and behavioural; while social, economic and environmental factors also come into play.4

Some people are prone to obesity or weight gain because of certain characteristics in their family. Regardless, some proactive interventions can help adjust that tendency to carefully control weight gain.

Learned behaviour right from childhood can affect the choices people make leading to weight gain and obesity.


 As it is not possible to change genes, prevention of obesity in children involves establishing healthy behavioural practices that help your child maintain increased physical activity and intake of a healthy diet.

This can be done in different ways but we have summarised five (5) methods, which have been shown to be effective in preventing obesity in young children in the list below.


Excess salt in diet worsens problems with obesity in children

Tips For Preventing Obesity in Children

  • ‘Eating Healthy’ during pregnancy: Excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy can result in overweight babies.3
  • Choosing the right foods: Stay away from fast foods and high energy foods high in sugars and fats and low in vitamins, minerals and micronutrients – instead choose nutritious meals.3,5,6
  • Encouraging physical activity: let children ride bikes, take walks, swim, run around and play.3,5,6
  • Restricting TV viewing: A life revolving around the TV is likely to be sedentary. In addition, discourage eating in front of the TV.3,5
  • Building healthy eating relationships: Avoid force feeding or food restriction. Eating together as a family would help you monitor what your child takes.3,5

According to WHO, In order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers:

  • Children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  • Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
  • Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone*, at least 3 times per week.

*For this age group, bone-loading activities can be performed as part of playing games, running, turning or jumping.

In concluding, we believe that while obesity has many factors contributing to its cause as mentioned above, adopting some of these measures described on a regular basis will help in reducing the risks and to maintain a healthy weight.

 References

1.  
Pandita, A., Sharma, D., Pandita, D., Pawar, S., Tariq, M., & Kaul, A. (2016). Childhood obesity: prevention is better than cure. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy, 9, 83-9. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S90783

2.  
https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/new-release-guideline-obesity-children/en/

3.  
Kar, S. S., Dube, R., & Kar, S. S. (2014). Childhood obesity-an insight into preventive strategies. Avicenna journal of medicine, 4(4), 88-93.

4.  
https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/causes.html

5.  
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-prevention/early-child-care/

6.  
https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/en/
 

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org

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