A growing concern among many western cultures is the growing prevalence in overweight and obese children. In fact, the problem has gotten so serious that in both America and the UK, the governments have endeavoured to take direct action to try and stem and reduce this problem.
In the US the problem appeared much earlier than in the UK. As far back as July 2003, the Surgeon General of the United States gave a statement before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the growing problem with child obesity. You can learn more about his in my video on the subject of the food and diet industry.
It is widely accepted that an unhealthy diet of high fat or sugar content coupled with a lack of physical activity are the main causes of childhood obesity. High calorie foods such as sweets, chocolates and fast food are cheap and readily available to children. Added to this many children are no longer engaging in any regular physical activity or exercise. Many children no longer walk or cycle to school and with many UK schools squeezing physical activities out of the school curriculum, the problem is being compounded that some commentators believe that many parents will outlive their children!
And there are many very worrying health implications for a child:
1. Overweight or obese
2. type 2 diabetes
3. Sleep apnea
4. High blood pressure and blood lipid levels
5. Increased risk of heart attack, strokes, osteoarthritis and certain cancers in adulthood. And the risk increases the more overweight children become.
6. Emotional trauma – children are often stigmatized as lazy, unhealthy and less intelligent than normal weight children and suffer from loss of self-esteem, social isolation and bullying
The the physical and emotional implications for children that re too overweight can be long-term and permanent.
So how can you tell whether your child is overweight or simply temporarily carrying “puppy fat”. Your family doctor can check height and weight charts (centile charts) when assessing your child to see if he or she is overweight for his or her age. So if this is a concern to you I’d recommend that you go and speak to your family doctor for guidance.
If your child is showing symptoms of being overweight or perhaps you’re finding that your child is getting upset by his or her weight, never put your child on a weight loss diet without medical advice as this can affect their growth. A child’s balanced nutritional food intake is very important in early life for the proper development of that child whilst he or she is growing.
A saver and healthier approach would be to help your child maintain their weight so that they can “grow into it” as they grow taller. The best approach is to therefore make long-term incremental improvements to your child’s diet and eating habits while increasing the amount of physical activity.
If you’re concerned about your child’s diet, a good starting point may be to get acquainted with the glycemic index food chart. The index simply measures the effect of the carbohydrate content of food on blood sugar levels. Basically, low GI foods release sugar into the bloodstream slowly and do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. High GI foods tend to lead to weight gain and are low in fiber – it is easy to overweight high GI food as they encourage a rapid return of hunger.
Low glycemic index food are less likely to store as fat and tend to maintain stable energy levels; they also:
1. reduce hunger urges
2. cause lower insulin level which makes it easier to burn fat
3. reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
A study by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that children on a low GI diet did better than children on a low-fat diet. Better weight loss was recorded in children on low GI diets and because they did not have to reduce serving sizes they were able to eat more until they were full.