Obesity is defined as the excessive increase in the amount of fat in the body in a way that disrupts health. The prevalence of obesity in childhood is increasing all over the world, including our country. It is reported that one in every 3 children in the United States of America is overweight / obese. In our country, the COSI-TUR 2016 study showed that 24.9% of primary school 2nd grade students were overweight / obese. This rate indicates that approximately one out of every 4 children suffers from overweight or obesity.
Height and body weight values are frequently used in the diagnosis of obesity disease. Children under two years of age are diagnosed according to weight values for height. In older children, body mass index is calculated by dividing body weight by the square of height in meters. However, unlike the adult, the decision is not made according to a fixed value. Children whose body mass index percentage values are between 85% and 95% in curves created according to age and gender are considered overweight, and those over 95% are considered obese. Waist circumference values in these children also help to reveal organ fat and metabolic risks.
Excess weight can also prevent a healthy puberty
The perception that “fat baby or child is healthy” that has been going on for years in our country is extremely wrong. Because the most common type of obesity in childhood and adolescence is simple obesity. Simple obesity arises due to the deterioration of the energy balance that a person takes and spends. The diet of these children includes a large amount of sugar and sugary foods / beverages, fatty or ready-made foods. Sometimes, large portions or not taking nutrients in appropriate proportions leads to this situation.
They are taller than their peers in the pre-adolescence period, but adult height may be adversely affected due to the early onset of puberty and the early termination of growth. Particularly, approaches of family members or caregivers such as “It is a child, eat it, the body loses weight over time” plays a role in the development and aggravation of obesity. It is known that a significant portion of children who are called obese in childhood continue to be obese in adulthood.
Many dangers from cancer to heart disease lurk
In childhood obesity; problems such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, high blood lipids, fatty liver, diabetes (diabetes), orthopedic problems, sleep disorders, loss of self-confidence and social isolation can be seen. Although it does not always require additional treatments, it may be encountered with the signs of adolescence to shift forward. In particular, it should not be forgotten that obesity also paves the way for some cancers such as breast, ovarian, and prostate in adulthood and can lead to reproductive disorders. Obesity can also have negative effects on the immune system.
Fatness in parents increases child risk 15 times
Both genetic and environmental factors have a great impact on childhood obesity. The presence of obesity in one of the parents increases the risk of developing obesity in the child 2-3 times, and the presence in both of them increases 15 times. Additional environmental factors such as prenatal and postnatal causes, physical activity status, nutritional habits, socio-cultural and familial factors, psychosocial factors and chemicals also play a role in the formation of obesity.
Proper treatment planning and lifestyle changes are of paramount importance
Apart from the genetic predisposition, there are also rare genetic diseases that cause obesity at an early age or accompanied by additional findings. Children at risk for these genetic diseases or hormonal disorders should be seen and monitored by pediatric endocrinology physicians. In cases of simple obesity, the most important component of treatment is lifestyle changes. In some cases, drug treatments may be considered. However, when these life changes are not applied, the effectiveness of drug therapy remains limited. Bariatric surgery applied in adulthood is not one of the primary treatment methods in childhood and researches continue on this subject. It may come to the fore in selected cases that have completed their development to a great extent and cannot be improved with other treatments, but children should be evaluated by centers with all the necessary branches including pediatric endocrinology.
11 measures against childhood obesity in the Covid process
The following measures can be taken to prevent excessive weight gain during the pandemic process where children’s exercise opportunities are reduced, the time they spend in front of the screen increases, and changes in their sleep and diet are experienced:
1. Awareness of healthy nutrition should be gained in children at an early age.
2. Mothers and fathers should be an example to their children in terms of healthy nutrition and exercise planning.
3. Healthy snacks should be chosen instead of packaged foods.
4. Sugary or additive foods and drinks should not be shown as a reward.
5. Children should have a balanced diet in terms of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
6. Portions should be appropriate for the age of the child.
7. The child should gain a regular exercise habit.
8. Sleep times should be regulated.
9. The time spent in front of the screen should be limited.
10. Games should be played with children and quality time should be spent.
11. Children can be given responsibility for light household chores.