CHILDREN AND OBESITY

Obese children are a fairly common trend in this day and age of fast food, conspicuous consumption and sedentary lifestyle. Developed countries have the highest percentage of obese children but the greater numbers are now in Asia. This is only because Asia has a larger population and economic growth has fuelled a rapid rise in consumption.

Of the estimated 43 million children worldwide who are overweight or obese, 80% or close to 35 million live in developing countries. This is expected to increase to about 60 million in the next 10 years. In the past 20 years, numbers have increased by about 60%. In 1990 obese kids were at 4.2%. This grew to 6.7% by 2010 and is expected to hit 9.1% by 2020. These were figures released by the World Health Organization.

92 million young children risk becoming overweight and researchers say: “these findings confirm the need for effective interventions and programs to reverse anticipated trends starting from very early childhood. Waiting for school programs to address the problem could be too late”.


Overweight and obesity is measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) and is determined by weight and height. There are different BMI charts or calculators applicable for men, women and children. Moreover, different countries might have differed classifications of what constitutes obesity. To check your BMI, go online and select the multiple options on the Internet.

There is a high probability that overweight and obese children would stay obese onto adulthood. They are also more likely to develop non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Nonetheless, overweight and obesity are largely preventable and this applies to the related diseases as well.

Obesity in children can also be a complex disorder and there are numerous causes. Unhealthy plus sedentary lifestyle, diet or eating habits are the most common causes. Other factors include genetics, environment and metabolism. Childhood obesity often brings about insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, liver and renal disease plus reproductive dysfunction. Furthermore, it also increases the risk of adult-onset obesity and cardiovascular disease.

It affects both sexes and cuts across ethnic and racial groups. Besides genetic syndromes and hormonal disorders, medications may also cause weight gain in children. Still, over 90% of cases are idiopathic and less than 10% are associated with hormonal or genetic attributes. What’s revealing is that most overweight children have one or both parents obese.

So what’s the remedy? For starters, children need to grow up strong and what better way to accomplish this than to inculcate sports as part of their growing up? Preferably, this should be part of their extra-curricular activities the moment they start regular school. Too much TV, computers, cyber gaming and smart phones would only mean little to no physical activity. With sports, there are variations of alternatives. There are contact and non-contact sports as well as impact and non-impact sports. For the latters, swimming is a very good option. Many competitive swimmers start lessons at 7.

There are also the numerous sports making up athletics of track and field sports. In addition, there are court sports like badminton and tennis or team sports such as basketball, football, hockey and volleyball. These are just some typical options while the list goes on and on. Sports will induce exercise and strengthening of the physical body. It will also contribute immeasurably towards mental and character development. To add to the plusses, it also brings them into exposure with healthy lifestyles and a natural rejection for contradictions such as smoking, banned substance abuse and other unhealthy habits.

For most of us, obesity need not be a “life sentence”.