The UK has higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in western Europe except for Iceland and Malta,according to the results of an authoritative global study that raises fresh concerns about the likely health consequences The rapid increase in child obesity is particularly disturbing, as being overweight at a young age can set children up for a lifetime of poor health.
This suggests that it is important for parents of children struggling with childhood obesity should be aware of the facts about childhood obesity and the health risks associated with it.
Schools play a large role in preventing childhood obesity by providing a safe and supporting environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviours.
At home, parents can help prevent their children from becoming overweight by changing the way the family eats and exercises together. The best way children learn is by example, so parents need to lead by example by living a healthy lifestyle.
The risks for obese children can be both emotional and physical.
The emotional aspects are that obese children can often suffer discrimination and teasing which in turn leads to low self esteem anxiety and depression. The physical aspects are that they can suffer from early puberty, problems such as asthma and other related respiratory issues. They can be also affected by skin problems and musculoskeletal disorders.
Perhaps the biggest and yet probably most ignored problem related to childhood obesity is that of type 2 diabetes which was previously only thought of as an adult condition. Children may also start to have problems with blood pressure, raised cholesterol and metabolic syndromes which may not become evident until they cause problems in adulthood.
Healthcare professionals such as pharmacists and dietitions can advise parents on healthy and exercises needed for children to maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally they can suggest weight management plans (WMP) for overweight and obese adolescents. These plans focus on righting the balance between energy intake and expenditure. To achieve overall weight loss, individuals must reduce caloric intake while also increasing physical activity.
WMP’s include dietary recommendations that suggest initiating a low-fat diet,that include fibre-rich foods such as oats,beans,grains,wholegrain bread,brown rice and pasta and at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day. Fried foods,sweets which are high in added sugars and fat and high fat foods such as takeaway meals or fast food should be avoided. The following is also recommended:
1. Reducing the amount of sugary drinks,including fruit juices with added sugar and drinking more water
2. Daily scheduling of predefined meals and snacks may help reduce energy intake by restricting the amount of food eaten between meals.
3. Eating regular meals, including breakfast, in a pleasant, sociable environment without distractions. Parents should eat with their children and make sure that everyone is eating the same food
4. A gradual reduction in portion size will restrict daily intake, as will the institution of healthier snacks.
5. Taking a healthy lunch to school
Children should never be put on a specific weight-loss diet without getting advice,as this can affect his or her growth. Any concerns about a child’s weight should be discussed with their GP.