Childhood obesity is prevalent in adolescents as well as children, which is considered as a major health risk for kids. A kid may suffer from childhood obesity if his weight exceeds the normal weight guidelines that are appropriate for his height and age bracket.

The reason that childhood obesity is such a serious concern for kids is that childhood obesity makes them vulnerable to medical conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, which are not supposed to affect them until they become adults. In addition, obesity is also associated with depression and lack of confidence in kids, too.

What Are the Causes of Childhood Obesity?

Factors that can increase the risk of childhood obesity can include:

1.      Diet

More and more children and teenagers nowadays are becoming a prey to bad eating habits and tend to consume fast foods instead of eat a healthy diet. These junk foods which are rich in fast carbohydrates and fat are considered as the major reason for childhood obesity. The measures taken by the government to prevent children from eating such foods have so far been ineffective, because teenagers continue to consume them each day.

2.      Exercise

The lack of physical activity and exercise is another reason why children have been putting on so much weight. Nowadays, children spend much of their time in front of the TV or on their gaming consoles instead of taking part in exercise, which causes them to gain extra pounds. The activity programs in school have also not been able to make much impact on the BMI (Body Mass Index) of children.

3.      Sleep

Lack of sleep is also one of the major causes for childhood obesity. Children that do not sleep properly have higher levels of ghrelin in their body, a hormone released by the stomach that induces hunger, causing them to eat more. Moreover, lack of sleep is associated with low levels of leptin, a hormone that is responsible for stopping the feeling of hunger. Having lower levels of leptin means that the child doesn’t know when to stop eating, and that further increases his weight.

4.      Genetic Factor

Geneticsfactor is considered responsible for obesity as well, which essentially means that obese parents are going to have obese children. People tend to think that child brought up in an environment where obesity is prevalent will turn up obese as well.

5.      Socio-economic Environment

Studies have revealed that the socio-economic environment in which the child is raised also has an impact on whether he develops childhood obesity. The researches done so far concede that the children of middle-class families are more likely to become obese because of their tendency to have snacks in between meals.

6.      Other Possible Causes

Rare physical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, growth hormone deficiency, Hypothyroidism, genetic syndrome, having a high birth weight, psychological or behavioral factors can also contribute to childhood obesity.

How Do You Know If Your Child Is Obese?

With knowing the causes of childhood obesity, here are the signs:

Body Mass Index, also called BMI, is the standard used for assessing whether a child is obese or not. You will need a BMI calculator to evaluate your child’s BMI, which essentially gives an estimation of his fat with the values of his height and weight. After calculating your child’s BMI, you would have to plot it on a BMI chart and check if he lies above or below the 95th percentile. Children above this value are considered obese while those below 5th percentile are considered under-weight.

BMI values are not considered for babies since they cannot accurately estimate their fat reserves. For them weight charts are used for determining whether they are overweight or not. Moreover, it is also important to note that BMI is not a perfect measurement of fat as well and can sometimes be proved to be quite misleading as well. However, BMI is still the best indicator for knowing if your child is obese or not.

Possible Risks of Obesity in Children

The potential problems and dangers associated with obesity are countless in number. The important physical issues caused by childhood obesity are:

  • High chances of developing cardiovascular diseases
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory issues
  • Sleeping issues

Emotional distress is also included in the consequences of childhood obesity. Obese teenagers suffer from anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, since they are alienated by other children at school and have very low self-confidence.

Also, you can take some limits or dietary changes to help your child obtain a healthy diet, that means you need to:

  • Limit the intake of cakes, biscuits, sweets, and fizzy drink
  • Just keep away from the junk food, like burgers, chips or fried food
  • Make breakfast be a routine to your child
  • Try to give your child starchy-based foods and whole grain food varieties are optimal.
  • Serve lots of vegetables and fruit

The following video explains more information and figures about the childhood obesity issue:

How to Treat Childhood Obesity

Treatments depend on the causes of childhood obesity and here's how:

1.      Treatment for Mild Condition

Management or maintenance of weight is the right way to go for children who are only slight overweight and do not suffer from any other medical condition. This is a better treatment approach for obese children since it does not affect their height and helps them achieve a normal BMI. Obese children, on the other hand, might find it hard to handle both growing tall and losing weight simultaneously.

2.      Treatment for Sever Condition

Weight loss becomes inevitable for obese children younger than 6 years old with health concerns. It is recommended that children lose weight anywhere from 1-2 pounds a month to get their bodies back into shape. There are a number of methods that can be adopted to reach the weight loss milestones. Some of these methods include:

  • Healthy Diets

Adding fruits and vegetables in the diet, avoiding or at least limiting the consumption of sweetened beverages, lessening eat outs and serving small portions of food at a time are some of the healthy dieting habits that can help your child in losing weight.

  • Do Exercise

Increasing your child’s activity level by encouraging him to spend less time in front of the TV and more time in doing physical activities like playing outdoor games and engaging in biking and running can go a long way in shedding those extra pounds.

  • Medications

Orlistat (Xenical) is the only prescription medication that has been approved for weight loss in kids but it has risks associated with it, thus it is better to consult with your doctor before giving it to your child. Note that orlistat is only approved for children old than 12 years old.

  • Surgery When Necessary

Surgery is also an option for weight loss for some obese children but it does not guarantee that the child will lose all his excess weight. Moreover, surgery is only recommended if all other methods of weight loss have been exhausted without any producing results. Or, your child’s weight becomes a bigger threat of his/her health than the possible risks of performing a surgery, then your doctor may suggest a surgery to your child.

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity

There are three ways that can be used for preventing childhood obesity.

The first one is to adopt healthy eating habits at home, which helps your child get involved in eating healthy.

Secondly, parents can motivate your child to take part in healthy physical activities like sports at school. Also, developing a healthy family lifestyle can stimulate your child to attend physical exercise.

Lastly, limit your child’s time spent on the TV and gaming console.