Childhood Obesity Prevention- How early and how seriously?

The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide. According to the studies, nearly 18% to 30% of Indian are overweight or obese. The increased obesity is associated with increased prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and diabetes during pregnancy. Multiple studies have proved that diabetes can be prevented if obese people lose weight. This highlights the need to tackle obesity at an individual level, society level and at the national level.

The above question open up another question – How early we should try to prevent obesity?

The answer is as early as possible and we should start it from childhood only.

This is in contradiction with societys view of childhood obesity. Years back being the chubby or overweight kid was considered a sign of being rich. But it is actually the sign of poor health. Childhood obesity is the precursor of adult obesity.

Does that mean we should put all the obese children on medicines or ask to undergo bariatric surgery?

The answer is definitely NO. When we say we have to tackle obesity in childhood itself we should target eating behaviors and exercise pattern.

The food preferences, food choices and food behaviors are formed in early childhood. The caloric intake is an important determinant of obesity in adulthood. So establishing a healthy food habit in childhood is of paramount importance.

Few things if followed regularly can make a change over a period of time

1) Eat healthy choices in front of your children. Children copy you in every aspect. Parents are the role model for the children. So before telling them not to eat junk food make sure that you don't have a cold drink bottle or junk food itself in your hand.

2) Reduce time in front of the TV.
Watching TV is a sedentary activity. Eating while watching TV distract your attention from the food. This results in the overeating. The advertisements promote junk food and food which is inappropriate.
Watching television is associated with obesity as it promotes sedentary behavior, increased snacking, and adverts prime children to eat unhealthy foods. Reducing and/or carefully paying attention to the amount of time children spend watching television is recommendable.

3) Increase the vegetables and fruit in the diet.
High consumption of fruit and vegetables lead to reduced energy in total and help in weight loss. But the problem is that if we give the same food to the children repetitively then they don't like it and may dislike it.
Rotating it with other food, changing its flavor and composition make it more attractive and children can adhere to it.

4) Stop food as the reward
Commonly food is used as the reward for being a good boy or good girl. That reinforces seeking food when someone is sad or happy.

Dr. Milind Patil - Endocrinologist in Pune will discuss the role of exercise in the prevention of childhood obesity in the next article.
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