Fight the kiddy fat: Know how childhood obesity can be checked

Genetic obesity may be caused by single gene mutations or may be syndromic which is associated with other organ abnormalities.

Fight the kiddy fat: Know how childhood obesity can be checked
Dr Smita Malhotra

By Dr Smita Malhotra

Is childhood obesity largely lifestyle driven or genetic?

Childhood obesity is now an epidemic in India. An imbalance between calories consumed and energy spent is the root cause of childhood obesity. Indians are genetically susceptible to obesity depending on their family history and ethnicity. However, environmental factors account for a major portion of the rise in childhood obesity. Health care professionals routinely collect family health histories to help identify people at high risk of obesity-related disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and various types of cancer. The impact of shared genetics and environment among close relatives can be seen in the family health history. Families cannot control their genes, but they may alter their surroundings to promote a balanced diet and regular exercise. These modifications can enhance family members’ health as well as the future generation’s family health history.

At what age does it start manifesting in the case of genetics?

Genetic obesity may be caused by single gene mutations or may be syndromic which is associated with other organ abnormalities. Genetic obesity may also be caused by multiple genes that promote weight gain amplified by lifestyle and environmental influences. Genetic obesity may manifest very early on in life from infancy itself. Nutrition strategies still constitute the mainstay of treatment.

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Is there any way to control it?

Yes, by providing wholesome meals and snacks, encouraging daily exercise, and offering nutrition education to parents and other caregivers can avoid childhood obesity. Good meals and snacks nourish growing bodies while serving as role models for healthy eating attitudes and behaviours. Increased physical exercise helps with weight management and lowers health risks. The goal for the majority of young children should be to retain their current weight as they develop normally in height. Healthy eating habits, frequent exercise, and a decrease in sedentary behaviour (such as watching television and videotapes and playing computer games) are the most crucial methods for preventing obesity. These preventative measures are a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle that needs to be adopted.

What screening should be done for such kids?

All children and teenagers should be evaluated for obesity due to a number of risk factors, including parental obesity, poor diet, insufficient exercise, insufficient sleep, sedentary behaviour, and low family income. The suggested screening test for obesity is BMI calculation using height and weight. An age- and sex-specific BMI of 95 percentile or higher is considered obese.

Is there any medical treatment and is it advisable?

The course of treatment for childhood obesity depends on your child’s age and any coexisting medical issues. Changes in your child’s food habits and level of physical activity are typically part of the treatment. In certain cases, therapeutic options include prescription drugs or weight-loss surgery. Physical activity is crucial for obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight, especially for kids. It helps kids sleep better at night and stay awake throughout the day by burning calories, nourishing bones, and strengthening muscles. Lifestyle adjustments are key to reducing obesity, over medical intervention.

Dr Smita Malhotra is consultant, pediatric gastroenterologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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