By – Rajveer Khanna
Obesity amongst children in India is spreading like an epidemic. According to a study of 24,000 school-age children in South India—conducted by the Indian Journal of Medical Research—“….the proportion of overweight children increased from 4.94 per cent of the total students in 2003 to 6.57 per cent in 2005 demonstrating the time trend of this rapidly growing epidemic. Socio-economic trends in childhood obesity in India are also emerging. A study from northern India reported a childhood obesity prevalence of 5.59 per cent in the higher socio-economic strata when compared to 0.42 per cent in the lower socio-economic strata.”
These figures have increased over the years, and are poised to continue in this vein. These alarming figures highlight the curse of obesity amongst Indian children:
- A report by Maps of India pointed out that 10-20% of children in India are obese, and two-thirds of those continue to be obese as they step into adulthood
- A study conducted by ASSOCHAM in 2014 showed that 1 in 10 children aged between 13 and 18 years is obese, and risks developing cardiovascular disease
What’s causing this disease to spike and cause health problems in children?
Considering the fact that 25% of all the hungry people in the world live in India—and the number of underfed children below the age of 5 is nearly 30%—it doesn’t make sense that obesity is on the rise.
Pinning down the root causes of obesity should give you a better perspective on why this disease is slowly gripping India’s children.
Genetics: the Biggest Risk?
A lot of people put the blame (for childhood obesity) on genetic inheritance. However, while childhood obesity does depend on the genes, this is only a minor influence.
Genes account for less than 5% when it comes to childhood obesity; although they might play a minor part, genes are definitely not the primary reason why children are racking up the kilos.
Excess Sugar Consumption
Sugary drinks and sodas are a major portion of the average middle-class child’s diet, and this is not okay at all.
The consumption of such sugary beverages clearly leads to obesity in children. These drinks are easily digestible and can be consumed quickly. This encourages unwary children to order further drinks, resulting in an even higher caloric intake.
Studies have shown that obesity and consumption are undeniably interlinked.
Lack of Physical Activity
A lifestyle that doesn’t include physical activity also contributes to obesity in children. Spending most of their time indoors, our children destroy their own health day by day.
Research has indicated that each additional hour of television watched everyday increases the chances of developing obesity by 2%. The number of hours spent watching television by children is also linked to the consumption of advertised unhealthy edibles such as sweets, beverages, salty snacks, and sweetened cereals.
Your child’s lifestyle also significantly affects their health. We often spoil kids with too much money for lunch, often hire domestic help to perform tasks children can and should do—like tidying up their beds or cleaning up after themselves—and send them to school in cars and buses instead of cycling or walking.
All these lead to a rather sedentary lifestyle, increasing their chances of developing obesity.
Where there’s obesity, there are obesity-related diseases.
Overweight children are known to suffer from pulmonary diseases and infections, including asthma. This can then discourage them from exercising, leading to a catch-22 situation.
Atherosclerosis is a heart disease that hardens the walls of the arteries; it often develops in children who are obese. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels, caused by excess fat, are the root cause of this heart disorder.
To protect your child’s life against such an illness must be your priority before obesity treatment gets underway. You can invest in a best health insurance plan that offers a hefty payout for different life threatening ailments, including heart complications, etc.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic complication that is a result of the ineffective utilization of sugar(glucose) by your child’s body. It’s a persistent disease that takes hold when your child is obese, and can continue to dog them for life.
Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder that has been linked to obesity in children. This is a scary disorder too; your child’s breathing pauses when they sleep, affecting their quality of sleep.
An obese child’s liver can undergo intense scarring and damage from fatty deposits. Also known as Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), liver damage is known to cause heart diseases and Type-2 Diabetes.
Obesity is also known to cause hormonal imbalances in children, causing puberty and menstruation to initiate well ahead of time.
Psychological Impacts: Low self-esteem, depression,
Obesity doesn’t only affect a child physically—mental well-being takes a hit as well. Children are often subject to jokes about their weight. They suffer from low self-esteem and depression. That’s not all; their anxiety levels shoot up, eventually affecting their social skills. Some children even withdraw from socializing completely.
Depression is perhaps the most significant effect of obesity. Children lose hope and stop believing in a brighter future. They are prone to mood swings, tearful breakdowns, and resort to solitude.
Health insurance can provide excellent monetary support for your child’s health complications due to obesity, it also offers OPD coverage considering the large number of clinic visits required to find a cure, but it isn’t the only solution. Obesity is simply an obstacle needs to be overcome through determination (on your child’s part) and constant support (on yours).
With a little help from doctors and people who’ve gone through the same ordeal, your child can easily break the shackles and live the happy, healthy life he/she is entitled to.