World Obesity Day is being observed today globally.  Organized by World Obesity Federation every year on October 11 it aims to end the global obesity crisis. It is reported that by the year, 2025, 2.7 billion adults worldwide will suffer from obesity. Obesity can be further responsible for more serious diseases including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer. Over the past four decades the obesity rates in children and adolescents have also increased globally. So, on World Obesity Day 2017, we share with you some frequently asked questions about childhood obesity. These inputs have been shared to us by Dr Ramen Goel, Senior Bariatric Surgeon, Director, Center of Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery, Wockhardt Hospitals.

What are the health consequences of obesity in childhood?

Children who are overweight or obese can develop not only health problems but can also cause physical and psychological issues. Healthwise, the child can suffer from problems including diabetes and high blood pressure. Also, the child gets psychologically stigmatized by family, friends and even strangers. They also cannot participate in social events because they are conscious about their body image. Obesity can affect a child in endless ways.

How does it affect a child psychologically?

One of the psychological consequences of being obese is low self esteem, the child becomes isolated and goes into depression. So, when everyone advises a child to lose weight and what to do about the excess weight, the child goes into a kind of cocoon. They do not go to social gatherings because of the same. It is an extremely serious issue and should be tackled carefully by parents.

Obesity in adults vs childhood

Though the health issues of obesity in childhood and adulthood are the same but when it comes to other spectrum, adults have a better way to deal with it. So as compared to children, adults are more aware and educated about it. They already have a support group or friend circle. But when it comes to obesity in childhood a child has to deal with the psychological issues more than an adult.

At what point might a physician become concerned with a child’s weight?

A physician should get involved at an early age, if he or she is concerned with the patient’s (child) weight. Even if the patient is consulting the physician for any other disease, if the child appears to be overweight, the case should be recommended to the concerned professional. Also, the parents need to be counselled right away.

What questions should parents be asking their pediatricians about their child’s weight?

It is always important for the parents to be counselled first. When it comes to their child’s weight, a parent should ask the pediatrician:

Is it a healthy weight?
If the child falls in the regular growth graph?
Is the child overshooting growth graph in terms of weight?

What steps can a family take?

The most basic needs have to be met by the parents. They should ensure that the child has a healthy diet and that the child gets regular exercise. Make sure that you provide your child with healthy options. Parents have to be vigilant to the risks of health issues and complications the child is going to face.

How is putting a child, who is still growing, on a plan to lose weight different than doing so for an adult?

Though the basic change in lifestyle which includes diet and physical activity is same, But generally gymming is not advised to children up to 13 years. They have to get involved in sports activities. The key difference when planning for a child is to put extra efforts when it comes to planning the diet since the child will not tolerate bland food options.

Do some children have a greater risk of becoming obese?

Childhood obesity is often the result of genetic factors. So, if both the parents are obese or even one parent, then there is a high risk of the child becoming obese.

Is surgical treatment is a safe option for children? What care is needed at home after surgery?

Though the treatment for childhood obesity is generally lifestyle changes, bariatric surgery is considered in specific cases of obesity. The parents have to always ensure the basic lifestyle changes that include exercise and healthy diet. Also, there should be a complete transformation in the habits of parents as well, so that the child follows the same.

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