Obesity is the most widespread dietary disorders among children in the world. It is indeed one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century. Nearly 21-24% of American kids and adults are overweight, the other 16-18% is obese; the frequency of obesity is highest in particular ethnic groups.
Childhood obesity makes them susceptible to insulin resistance and diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, liver and renal disease, and reproductive dysfunction. Childhood obesity also adds to the risk of adult-onset obesity and other heart diseases.
Child obesity is a rather complicated disorder. Its occurrence has considerably increased within the past few years that many consider it a key health matter of the modern world. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has shown an increase of this disorder in all paediatric age levels in children of both genders, and in different ethnic and racial clusters. Genetics, environment, metabolism, lifestyle, and eating habits, are said to be the main factors behind obesity. Anyway, over 90% of the reported cases are idiopathic. The percentage associated with hormonal or genetic causes are less than 10%.
The general definition of obesity is based on statistics gained by analyzing the relationship between body mass and the associated health risks. Morbidity and mortality are two main factors used in evaluating the health risks. There is however a problem in interpreting these statistics when it comes to children as there is no way to evaluate the long term risk simply because they don’t remain children for long. Therefore in children the acute medical conditions are very less frequent and therefore deriving solid relationships between obesity and complications is very hard. There is no single definition that can be applied to both children and adults.
Some health experts have defined overweight with reference to children who are 20%, 50% more than the expected weight according to their heights. The BMI has not proven consistent for children who are younger than 2 years. There are lot of instances where the BMI can be misleading mainly because the weight distribution is actually continuous and doesn’t vary stepwise.
BMI measures body fat although in a lot of ways it is not a perfect approach. It is calculated as the weight divided by the height. The weight is measured in kilograms and the height in meters. BMI also has a correction for body size and considered as a valid quantity in clinical settings. The BMI has been found to very closely correlate to the body fat when compared with the readings estimated through a method called DEXA which stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. BMI values also vary with sex and pubertal status and even on ethnicity even though many ignore the last factor. Obesity is a topic still under research and there are a lot of new theories coming up. One such theory is the relationship between obesity and the lack of sufficient sleep in childhood derived independent of other variables. There are also data indicating that children who are considered obese and have been so for more than 5 years are more susceptible to complications like high blood pressure and sometimes insomnia.
Lana Joseph, a nutritionist graduated from State Med School USA. Freelances as nutrition for several hospitals and gyms and also writes to several health magazines and news papers about cosatto, britax and quinny buzz.