Statistics reveal that 25 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls aged between 2 and 19 years are overweight or obese and there is little evidence to suggest that this number will soon be decreasing.
Obesity currently costs the country several billion dollars and shortens lives by around nine years, due to associated health problems.
But, just what are the effects of childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Obese children are more likely to have:
– High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). In one study, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39% had two or more.
– Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
– Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.
– Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
– Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.
But it’s not just these that will affect them now, there are health risks that could effect them later in life too:
– Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.
– Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
– If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.
If you’re worried your child is overweight, talk to your doctor and ask for help from a nutritional consultant. Avoid starting your child on an aggressive diet. Instead, make long-term lifestyle changes to healthy eating for the entire family, and get your child involved in sports or exercise.
It may also be worth talking to your child’s school and see if you can help make changes to the lunch menu or send your child to school with healthy alternatives.