FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obesity and Children’s Health

In many cultures and in older times obesity in children was a sign of good health. This is not the case any longer. According to a U.S. National Institute of Health study, and because of its serious effects on their health, the global rise in childhood obesity has become an “epidemic”. “It is an exploding nightmare in the developing world,” says Peter Gluckman, co-chair of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Commission.

Some studies carried out in Middle East countries show that childhood obesity is a serious problem in the region. The rapid pace of economic development in the region has been accompanied by decreasing levels of physical activity and increased caloric consumption, particularly of “junk food”. These are important factors in child and adolescent obesity.

Children who are obese are likely to remain obese as adults, and are at risks for several serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart failure. In addition, obesity in children can hinder their educational attainment. It is important therefore that public health and school officials develop a series of measures aimed at increasing the level of physical activity among children both inside and outside school, and conduct educational campaigns showing the risks of consuming high calories foods and drinks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) alerts that the rise in childhood obesity in low and middle-income countries is an alarming trend that demands a “high level action”. About half of the world’s obese children, 48 percent, live in Asia. Although many countries in Southeast Asia have achieved impressive economic gains in recent times, there has been, at the same time, a rise in conditions such as over and under nutrition, where some children are overweight while their peers may suffer from stunting and wasting.

This “double burden” of malnutrition is happening now in middle income countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Christiane Rudert, Regional Nutrition Adviser for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific stated in a recent press release, “Asian children are now at risk of malnutrition from both ends of the spectrum”.

In China, a 29-year survey of 28,000 children aged between seven and 18 was carried out in eastern Shandong province. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, found that 17 percent of boys and nine percent of girls were obese in 2014. This showed a significant increase from under one percent for both genders in 1985. The study also showed that the increase was particularly more notable in children aged seven to 12 than in adolescents.

There is not one factor that explains the high rates of obesity among Chinese children, although there are several contributing factors with varying importance in different settings and circumstances. For example, many formerly poor families are over feeding their children, particularly when the grandparents are in charge of their care.

Although Japan hasn’t totally solved the problem of childhood obesity, it has made significant advances in its control. One of the strategies used in Japan involved a redesigning of school lunches that are increasingly planned by nutritionists, and include a variety of foods such as fresh ingredients and locally grown vegetables.

Increasingly, children worldwide are being raised in obesogenic environments (the obesogenic environment refers to an environment that helps, or contributes to, obesity).
One of the most important contributing factors for obesity is the high consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates and high consumption of sugary drinks. “Children are exposed to ultra-processed, energy dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are cheap and readily available,” says the WHO.

Physical inactivity is another important contributing factor, often associated with a significant increment in television viewing. It has been proven that each hour watching television is associated with a 1-2 percent increase in the prevalence of obesity among urban children.

Obesity in children can have significant economic costs. Obesity, which affects about 10.4% of children between 2 and 5 years of age and more than 23 million children and teens in total in the U.S., cost the nation $117 billion per year in direct medical expenses and indirect costs, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It is important to educate parents before and during pregnancy for early prevention, and to work with governments to provide weight management resources for children who are battling obesity. As stated by Peter Gluckman, “WHO needs to work with governments to implement a wide range of measures that address the environmental causes of obesity, and help give children the healthy start to life they deserve”.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail