Childhood obesity is on the rise for several reasons, including unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical exercise and some medical conditions. The concern with obesity in young children is not only the immediate health problems, but the problems that will follow the child into adolescence and adulthood. While prevention of childhood obesity is ideal, treatment of this condition is possible.
Unhealthy eating habits are a main reason for the child obesity epidemic. Children generally are not knowledgeable about what types of foods have the best nutritional value and the kinds of food to stay away from. Foods that have no nutritional value and contain high amounts of sugar and fat may be more desirable to children than eating healthy whole foods such as vegetables and fruit.
Lack of physical activity is another common cause of obesity in young children. Several pastimes contribute to this problem, including video games, computer use, and television. These pastimes rarely allow for physical activity and often encourage hours of daily inactivity that is detrimental to the overall health of young children. Paired with unhealthy eating habits, that inactivity will also result in unhealthy weight gain.
In some cases childhood obesity is the result of a medical condition and medication. Hypothyroidism is a condition that slows down the body’s metabolism, causing the body to store a higher amount of fat than it burns and resulting in weight gain. Children who are diagnosed with depression may also experience weight gain as a result of finding comfort in food or having an overall reluctance toward participating in activities. Some medications used to treat various health conditions may also result in weight gain.
The long-term effects of obesity in young children are numerous. Conditions resulting from obesity in young children include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, early heart disease and diabetes. Social and psychological problems may develop as side effects of childhood obesity. These serious health issues will follow a child into adulthood.
Treating obesity in children should involve the entire family. It is important that the child does not feel singled out because of weight. Children are sensitive and may take weight concerns from parents as a sign of low worth. Parents should make gradual changes to incorporate healthy eating habits into the family's daily life. Physical activities that include the entire family — such as taking walks, playing at parks or family basketball games — also are fun ways to encourage activity in children.