Many parents may consider a child being overweight to be normal, however, it can actually lead to various health problems, either physical or related to mental health (low self-esteem and depression). So it’s important for parents to encourage their children to eat healthy and have healthy lifestyle habits in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity mostly stems from an imbalance between energy consumption and energy use, which results from several different factors including:
- Eating and lifestyle habits – The consumption of high-energy foods or drinks combined with a lack of regular exercise.
- Heredity – It has been found that children who have obese parents or siblings are more likely to be obese as well. Nowadays, however, it is believed that obesity is the product of both hereditary and environmental causes, such as diet and lifestyle.
- Hormonal disorders – Hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism, and excess glucocorticoid hormones are hormonal disorders which are usually found in overweight children.
- Diseases or syndromes – Conditions such as Prader Willi syndrome or pseudohypoparathyroidism are often found in overweight and short statured children.
Health Issues Resulting from Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity can affect both a child’s physical and mental health in the following ways:
- Dyslipidemia, which may lead to greater chances of cardiovascular diseases in adulthood
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes or metabolic disorders from consuming too many carbohydrates
- Bone or joint disorders, such as scoliosis, bowed-leggedness, or flat feet
- Skin conditions, such as fungal infections or a susceptibility to skin infections
- Snoring and sleep apnea
- Irregular menstruation in females, leading to infertility in adulthood
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common cause of liver disease in children
- Low self-esteem and depression
Diagnosing Childhood Obesity
If a child is found to be at risk of obesity, doctors may:
- Calculate the child’s Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the ratio between weight (kg) and height (m 2). The child’s BMI result is compared to the BMI chart according to age. If a child’s weight is over the 95th percentile on the chart, they are considered obese.
- Perform blood tests to check:
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood glucose levels after fasting
- Hormone levels, which may be abnormal in obese or overweight children, such as thyroid and insulin levels
Please note that some blood tests require the patient to refrain from consuming food or water prior to the test.