Childhood Obesity Causes + 7 Natural Solutions

A

highly prevalent health problem affecting children and adolescents in different parts of the world is childhood obesity. This health issue is cited as a major public crisis. In the last few years, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased dramatically. This condition results from an imbalance between intake and utilization of calories. [1]

This exceedingly common problem is affecting individuals in developing and developed countries. Here we have discussed the various factors that cause obesity in children and also stated the effective natural solutions that can be used for fighting off childhood obesity.


What Is Childhood Obesity?

A serious health condition affecting both children and adolescents, childhood obesity is one of the most common causes of health concerns in the world right now. In this condition, excess body fat adversely affects the health and overall wellbeing of a child. [2]


What Are The Symptoms Of Childhood Obesity?

It is important to know that not all children with extra pounds are obese, as few children have body frames that is larger than the average. Also, children tend to have different quantity of body fat at the various stages of development. That is the reason, parents cannot determine whether weight is a cause of concern just by looking at their children. [3]


How Is Childhood Obesity Diagnosed?

The regular child care often involves checking the BMI and finding out where this index falls on the BMI-for-age chart. The BMI is the accepted measure that takes the age and height of a child into consideration and determines whether he or she is overweight. By accessing the growth chart, the doctor will compare your child with other children belonging to the same age group and gender. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come up with the cutoff points on these growth charts. According to them children who fall under the BMI level between 85th and 94th percentiles are overweight. While those who are BMI 95th percentile or above are obese.

However, BMI does not take body frame, growth pattern, and muscles into consideration. That is why the doctor may pay also attention to other factors like the growth and development of the child. This will help the doctor determine whether the child’s weight is a cause of concern. Apart from these factors, the doctor also evaluates the family history (obesity or weight-related problems), the eating habits of the child, his or her activity level, psychosocial history (sorrow, depression, sleep problems) along with other health conditions.

In addition, the doctor may ask for blood tests to find out about the cholesterol and blood sugar level in the blood of the child. They may also ask for blood tests to find out if the child is suffering from any hormone imbalance or deficiency of Vitamin D. [4]


How Is Childhood Obesity Diagnosed?

Childhood obesity can affect every aspect of one’s life. Here are some of the ways in which this condition can affect a child and adolescent’s life:

1. Medical Effects

Childhood obesity can not just have far-reaching effects on the mental wellness of a person but also lead to a wide array of life-threatening diseases. These are cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep disorders among others. Apart from these, childhood obesity can also lead to other health problems such as liver disease, menarche, early onset of puberty, respiratory problems, asthma, skin infections, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, etc.

Certain physical effects of childhood obesity may start from the adolescence itself. The internal organs of the child may get affected and various ailments like gallstones, increased intracranial pressure, sleep apnea, and hepatitis may affect the child. Also, it has been found that overweight children are at a higher risk of being overweight as adults. Obesity at the time of adolescence also leads to increased mortality rates during adulthood.

2. Long-term Effects

Obese children are highly susceptible to obesity even during adulthood. This puts them at a higher risk of developing adult health issues like type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and osteoarthritis. As per a study, kids who became obese at 2 were highly likely to grow up to be obese adults. Another long-term effect of childhood obesity is shorter lifespan. [5]

3. Socio-emotional Effects

Obesity not just affects the physical health but also the emotional health of a child or adolescent. Cited as one of the stigmatizing issues in the world, it has been found that obese children are often subjected to negative behavior like teasing and bullying. Apart from these negative stereotypes, due to obesity children also end up being excluded from various activities, especially the competitions that involve physical activity. Obese or overweight children face difficult participating in such activities as they tend to be slower and often experience shortness of breath. All these social problems lead to the development of low confidence level, low self-esteem as well as a negative body image in children suffering from obesity. All this negativity can have devastating socio-emotional effects on children and adolescents.

4. Academic Consequences

The effects of childhood obesity can also have an impact on the academic performance of a child. As per a research, children who are obese or overweight are more likely to face problems at school when compared to other children. Also, they are likely to be absent from school on a frequent basis. This is most common among those who are suffering from chronic health problems like asthma and Type 2 diabetes. [6]


What Are The Causes Of Childhood Obesity?

Here are some of the most commonly known causes of childhood obesity:

1. Parental factors are known to be a cause of obesity in children. It has been found that children often learn from their parents and peers and develop the willingness to try new food items. When children are repeatedly exposed to healthy food, they tend to develop a preference towards them and overcome disliking healthy food. Even the structure of the family can play a role. Families who consume food together tend to have a higher intake of healthy food. Other household habits such as watching television while eating can lead to an increase in the consumption of fat. The style in which parents feed their children can also play a significant role. Authoritative feeding is connected with a positive attitude towards healthy food items. However, it has also been found that authoritarian restriction of unhealthy or junk food can increase the desire for unhealthy food in a child.

2. Genetics is often cited as one of the biggest factors that lead to childhood obesity. Few studies conducted over the years have established that BMI (body mass index) tends to be about 25-40% hereditary. However, it is crucial to be mindful of the fact that genetic factors alone do not affect one’s weight. When coupled with environmental and behavioral factors, genetics tends to have an effect on weight. Reports have found that this factor is responsible for 5% of childhood obesity cases. Even though genetic factors can be responsible, it does not cause a dramatic increase in the development of obesity in children.

3. Basal metabolic rate, simply known as metabolism is also cited as a possible cause of childhood obesity. This is defined as the body’s expenditure of energy for normal functions (resting). Metabolism accounts for 60% expenditure for total energy in adults who are sedentary. People suffering from obesity are known to have low metabolism. Even though it is a possible cause, it is imperative to know that metabolism is not responsible for the increase in the cases of childhood obesity.

4. A high intake of fast Food is also known to be associated with obesity. Children, with both parents working outside, tend to prefer fast food as it is less costly and easily available. Such food items contain a high quantity of calories and have low nutritional value.

5. Consumption of sugary beverages such as soda is another potential cause of obesity. They are loaded with calories and can quite filling. A variety of studies have established that sugary drinks act as contributing factors for obesity.

6. The one cause that is considered to be highly responsible for obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. It was found that an additional hour of television watching every day could increase the prevalence of obesity by 2%. Over the years, there has been a dramatic rise in the prevalence of children and adolescents watching television. Spending more time doing things like this has led to a reduction in the time spent doing physical activities.

7. Environmental factors are also known to be responsible for obesity as they tend to contribute to the sedentary lifestyle of the people. In recent years, there has been a decline in the safety of the environments which as led to fewer opportunities for one to be physically active. Earlier, children used to ride their bicycle or walk to school. However, nowadays more and more parents opt driving their kids to school. Children residing in unsafe areas have fewer opportunities to be physically active.

8. Family factors are also cited as a potential cause for childhood obesity. The type of food that is available in the house can also have an impact on the food preferences of children. The habits of the family members also has an influence on the eating habits and lifestyle of children.

9. Even psychological factors such as depression and anxiety can have an impact on one’s weight and may lead to obesity. A few studies have found that there is a relationship between depression and eating problems. Other than that, factors like body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and emotional problems can also play a role in the development of obesity in children. [7]


 7 Natural Solutions For Childhood Obesity

Here is a list of natural solutions to the problem of childhood obesity.

1. Daily Breakfast Consumption

Studies have found that regular consumption of breakfast has a negative association with obesity. Apart from that, daily breakfast consumption is also known to lead to healthier food choices along with an increase in physical activity. In order to tackle or avert obesity in children, it is incredibly important to promote daily consumption of breakfast. Either new programs can be introduced in schools or providing a short break to the students in the morning can allow them to consume breakfast. Interventions on a social level with the help of parents and peers can encourage children to consume breakfast on a daily basis. [8]

2. Physical Activity

Being physically active can help lower the likelihood of obesity development in children and thus reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It also helps children build strong bones and muscles and promotes positive mental health in them. Children and adolescents should do physical activity on a daily basis for at least an hour. They can do moderate or vigorous Aerobic activities for an hour. These often include activities such as running, dancing, bike riding, and brisk walking. They can also play active games such as soccer and basketball. Apart from that, children and adolescents should do muscle-strengthening activities for 3 days a week. Children can do gymnastics or play on a jungle gym. Lastly, they can do bone-strengthening activities like skipping, jumping and running. For activities to be enjoyable for children, it is essential for them to be age-appropriate and offer variety. Parents can model positive physical activity and help children become active with their friends. [9]

3. Cut Down On Television Time

It was found that food marketing contributes to the obesity-promoting environment for children. All over the world, children are regularly exposed to a great volume of food advertisements, marketing unhealthy food items, on the television. A wide array of studies have found that there is a strong link between unhealthy food marketing and the food choices of children, along with their purchases and consumption. [10] To tackle and solve this problem effectively, it is wise to cut down on the television time of children. This will help improve their food choices and fight off obesity.

4. Packed Lunches

To combat childhood obesity, parents can provide their children with packed school lunches. As per a 2009 study, children who carried their lunch to school on all the 5 days per week consumed fast food on relatively fewer occasions, especially when compared to the children who did not bring packed lunches. [11]
Involvement In School

5. Involvement In School

Few findings have established that school-based programs have far-reaching impact. This is true because children spend a great deal of their time in schools and end up adapting to the lifestyle there. This can have a remarkable effect on their health behaviors. Dietary, as well as lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity along with behavioral therapy, can prove to be effective. A multidisciplinary approach in schools which involves the families of the children can help manage childhood obesity in a potent way. [12]

6. Healthy Eating

Parents are the ones who purchase groceries and cook meals for their children. They should pick vegetables and fruits while shopping and reduce the purchase of cookies, crackers and prepared meals that are often packed with sugar, fat, and calories. Apart from that, limiting sweetened beverages is also a great way to tackle this problem. As these drinks are replete with calories and have very little nutritional value. Also, parents should limit fast food options and have kids sit down for family meals. Lastly, they should serve appropriate portion sizes to children. Also, while eating out be careful of the portion size served to the child. These small healthy changes can have significant impact on your child’s health. [13]

7. Provide Support

Parents should work on helping their children build self-esteem and promote positive talk of health and fitness. However, it is crucial to be sensitive while talking about these things so that the kids do not see it as an insult. Without being critical or judgmental, parents should openly converse with their children. They should avoid negative comments about anyone’s weight and also discourage their children from skipping meals or dieting. Parents should celebrate even small positive behavioral changes in their kids and instead of rewarding them with food, try different things like heading to a local park with them. They should converse with their kids to help them cope with emotions and encourage them to focus on positive goals. Most importantly, parents should be supportive and patient with their children. [14]


Conclusion

By making lifestyle and dietary changes, parents can help their children fight off obesity in an effective manner. Just a few simple changes can make a world of difference to the health and overall wellness of children.