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oese.jpgChildhood obesity is a serious problem. It can give rise to numerous physical as well as psychological problems in children. Of course, increase in weight is normal as the child grows up. But if it is more than healthy body weight, then your child can be considered as obese. Obesity in children can be a cause of various diseases such as elevated levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. This article will help you to understand the causes and the treatment options for obesity in children. 
Causes of Childhood Obesity

According to childhood obesity facts, obesity in children is due to multiple causes including imbalance between calories gained from food and calories expended in physical activity and basal metabolic rate. Childhood obesity is most frequently found to be resulting from interaction of physiological, nutritional, familial and psychological factors. Some known causes of obesity in children are as follows:
  • Family: It is observed that tendency to gain weight is more common in children who have both parents obese. It may be because of powerful genetic factors or parental modeling of exercise and eating behaviors.
  • Low energy expenditure: Obesity problem is frequently found with children who watch television for several hours. Many of them continuously keep eating high-calorie snacks while watching television or doing homework.
  • Heredity: It’s not necessary that all children who eat high-calorie food and have less activities tend to gain weight. According to recent research, heredity significantly contributes to obesity. Infants of overweight mothers are found to be more inactive and obese by the age of three months as compared to infants of normal weight mothers.
  • Certain diseases: Some hormonal disorders and genetic diseases can be predisposing factors for childhood obesity. Cushing’s syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome may contribute to obesity in small proportion.
Risk Factors for Obesity in Children

Several factors can increase the risk of obesity in your child. Frequent consumption of high-calorie food like baked goods, fast foods and vending machine snacks can lead to obesity; as such foods contain high calorie content. Consumption of desserts, candy and soft drinks can also lead to obesity, because such foods and beverages are rich in sugar and calories. If a child is not burning calories in physical activities, it can cause weight gain. Many children tend to spend lots of time in leisure activities like playing video games or watching television. A child from the family of overweight people has a tendency to put on excess weight. Some psychological factors can also contribute to childhood obesity. Some children are not able to cope with emotional problems like boredom or stress and they usually tend to overeat. Their parents are likely to have similar tendencies. Socioeconomic factors can be responsible for obesity in children. It is observed that children from low-income background are at higher risk of gaining excess weight because poor parents may not pay enough attention towards children’s diet and exercise.

Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

Obese children are at increased risk of developing several serious health problems. These health problems include coronary artery diseases (hardened and blocked arteries), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver disease, skin infections, sleep disorders and asthma and other respiratory problems. Obese children may suffer from stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes and bowel cancer in adulthood. In addition to physical problems, obese children may face psychological distress. Obese children are teased about their appearance. This can affect a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Such children are depressed and isolated.
Maintaining Healthy Body Weight

When you notice that your child is gaining excess weight, you need to help your child to lose extra calories and maintain healthy weight. You can encourage your child to have well-balanced, healthy diet, make changes in eating habits and increase physical activities.
  • Healthy Diet: It is advised that children should not be put on weight-loss diet as it can affect their growth. Children’s diet should be fresh and nutritious. Starchy foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates are filling and good nutrition. Foods like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta can provide half the energy in diet. Try healthier alternatives like fresh fruits, crackers and crusty bread instead of high-fat foods including biscuits, crisps, cakes and chocolates. You may go for grilled or baked foods instead of fried foods. You should prefer fresh fruit juices diluted with water or other sugar-free alternatives to fizzy drinks with higher sugar content. You can start your child’s day with a healthy breakfast including low-sugar cereal, milk and fresh fruits. Instead of sweets, you can give tinned fruit or dried fruit and frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.
  • Changes in eating habits: You need to change habits and attitude towards food and exercise to achieve lasting effects. You should try to set good example with your own good habits. Provide snacks and meals at regular times to prevent your child from grazing whole day. Don’t allow the child to eat while studying or watching television. Avoid keeping plenty of high-sugar and high-fat snacks in home. Teach your child to chew food slowly, so that he/she will feel fuller.
  • Physical activity: You should encourage walking wherever possible, instead of traveling by car or bus. Suggest your children to get involved in sports and team activities. Encourage them to participate in outdoor games like football or cricket.
Treatment for Childhood Obesity

Treatment for childhood obesity depends upon child’s age and medical conditions. Usually, child obesity can be managed with changes in diet and level of physical activity. However, in specific circumstances, medications or weight-loss surgery may be required.
  • Medications: Orlistat (Xenical) and sibutramine (Meridia) are prescription weight-loss medications recommended for adolescents. Orlistat is preferred for the adolescents older than 12. It can stop absorption of fat in the intestine. Sibutramine is prescribed for the adolescents older than 16. This drug can change brain’s chemistry and makes the body feel fuller more rapidly. However, it is better to consult your doctor before starting any kind of medication.
  • Weight-loss surgery: Weight-loss surgery is generally recommended for some severely obese adolescents, who cannot lose their weight with conventional weight-loss methods.

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