Childhood obesity continues to be a growing problem in today’s society. In fact, almost one in five children and adolescents are overweight, and the numbers continues to rise. It affects more than 30 percent of children, making it the most common chronic disease in childhood.
“In last five years, the incidences of childhood obesity have gone up. This is due to the westernisation of our lifestyle. While earlier I used to see 2 to 3 children in a year with obesity problem, I see the same number of patients now every month,” said Dr Jaydeep Palep, Bariatric Surgeon, at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
He explained that unlike adult obesity, the reasons behind a child requiring obesity surgery are different. “In adult obese patient, it is uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea etc. In children it is repeated viral illnesses, low physical activity, poor concentration in academics and psycho-social issues,” said Dr Palep.
Doctors say obese children are also prone to depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, low self-esteem that stems from being teased, bullied, or rejected by peers. Data from a number of studies provide strong evidence that higher levels of body mass index (BMI) during childhood can predict the possibility of being overweight later in life.
“Childhood obesity has two factors – genetic and social or lifestyle factors. In genetic factor the genes are responsible for the increase in their hunger. In lifestyle, most of the time the child is hooked to junk food etc. No outdoor activity along with bad eating habits can lead to obesity in children,” said Dr Sanjay Borude, Bariatric Surgeon, at Breach Candy Hospital.
It is estimated that in India reportedly witnesses 10 million cases of childhood obesity annually.
Dr Manish Motwani, Bariatric Surgeon at Astha Health Care said childhood obesity is a known precursor to obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in adulthood. “Living with morbid obesity is extremely difficult for any individual, especially an adolescent. Also childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnoea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem,” said Dr Motwani.
The World Health Organization (WHO) commission too has termed childhood obesity as “an exploding nightmare.”
Dr Motwani added that healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases in children.