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Already every fifth school-age child is overweight or obese. And that's a straightforward pathway to the development of many other chronic diseases and shortens life expectancy. What are the causes of childhood obesity and how to prevent them? It turns out that the risk of overweight and obesity is reduced not only by the formation of appropriate eating habits in childhood, but also by the appropriate diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

According to the results of the nationwide survey of the he alth of Poles (WOBASZ), more than half of adult Poles are overweight, and one in four is obese. Our improper nutrition also contributed to such a large development of this disease. It happens that we treat food - especially unhe althy food - as a pleasure or a reward. We often "instill" this approach to food in our children, from an early age, instead of instilling in them the principles of he althy eating. The consequences of this are and will be dramatic for the little ones in the future, although many of us are not aware of it. After all, we still remember how grandmothers and mothers told us that a chubby child was a sign of he alth. And it is quite the opposite - this is the beginning of he alth problems! In addition, research shows that a toddler with obesity has a good chance of becoming a teenager with obesity, and then an adult with obesity. And it will be much more difficult for such a person to get rid of the excess fat accumulated in the body from an early age.

Child obesity is increasing

Even 20 years ago, overweight and obesity affected approx. 9% of school-age children. Large studies conducted in 2007-2010 by the Institute "Children's Memorial He alth Institute" (CZD) as part of the OLAF project showed that over 16% of children aged 7-18 were overweight or obese (18.7% of boys and 14, 1% of girls). The worst situation was in primary schools, where as many as 22% of boys and 18% of girls had excess body weight (15% and 13% respectively in lower secondary schools, 17% and 10% in upper secondary schools). The latest research by the Food and Nutrition Institute (IŻŻ) shows that obesity is present in 22.3% of primary and junior high school students. The Mazowieckie Province is the leader - here the percentage of children with excess body weight is as high as 32%. What about younger children? According to the quoted CZD research (2010-2012), overweight and obesity affected from 9% to 18% of children aged 3-6.

Every fourth child in Europe has excess body weight; among 11-year-olds, Polish children are the fattest (according to WHO)

Why do children get fat?

Only in about 5% of cases, obesity in children is the result of, for example, hormonal disorders, damage to the nervous system, genetically determined syndromes or chronic use of certain drugs. This is called secondary obesity. The remaining 95% is obesity resulting from an unhe althy lifestyle - including an inadequate diet dominated by highly processed foods, rich in fat and sugar, and low physical activity. Genes determine the development of overweight or obesity to a lesser extent, although many of us, unaware of what obesity disease is, explain our overweight and obesity of our children with "family tendencies".

The fact is that we only inherit a predisposition to be overweight from our ancestors, but not the overweight itself. The expression of genes, however, is not only determined by what is stored in them, but is also influenced by environmental factors, i.e. what we eat. A child of obese parents has a chance to gain weight in accordance with the norm, provided that the parents take care of his proper nutrition. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely to happen when your little one grows up in a home ruled by poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. There is, however, a great chance that the child will adopt these negative patterns.

Don't do that

The most common nutritional mistakes made by parents

Many nutritional mistakes can contribute to the development of overweight and obesity in children. In a study of parents of babies aged 6 and 12 months, more than 60% of toddlers get 7 or more meals a day and have too much juice in their diet. When preparing milk mixes or porridges for children, parents add more powder than specified in the instructions, sweeten or add s alt to the dishes, and allow their children to try dishes from the "adult" table. Later it gets even worse. Children eat irregularly, skip breakfast (according to the research by IŻŻ, this applies to every fourth elementary school student and over 40% of middle school students), often eat two lunches (at kindergarten or school, and then at home), and eat high-calorie snacks between meals. They also love sweetened drinks. Parents often reward children with sweets, take their children to a fast food restaurant for Sunday lunch, or organize their birthday there.

Diet in pregnancy programs the baby's metabolism for life

According to scientists, the period of fetal and infancy is a sensitive period for gene expression. The diet at this time programs the baby's metabolism onlifetime. It is known from studies that if the fetus was malnourished and the child was born with a low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg), the risk of developing obesity in later years increases. This applies to both premature babies and full-term babies who are deficient in body weight. This is due to the fact that these children in utero are programmed to save energy, and when an excess of it later appears, they develop obesity. The second extreme situation that can lead to the development of obesity in a child is excessive birth weight (over 4 kg). This is favored by too much weight gain during pregnancy, as well as gestational diabetes.

Excess protein in the infant's diet may cause obesity later in life

In infancy, the programming factor that increases the risk of obesity is excess protein. It is known that breastfed babies have a 20-25% lower risk of developing obesity, as there is less protein in breast milk than in infant formulas. A study conducted by a team of European scientists with the CZD showed that infants who received more protein from milk formulas had a higher BMI at 2 years of age, and as 6-year-olds, they had a 2.5 times greater risk of obesity than toddlers who received they got a smaller amount of this ingredient. Protein in infancy increases the release of insulin and insulin-like growth factor, which in turn influence the formation of mature fat cells. At this stage of a child's life, it is the amount of protein that influences the growth of adipose tissue. In the following years, his eating habits are formed that may protect against obesity or promote it.

He alth consequences of obesity in children

Overweight and obesity favor other diseases. Children with obesity may develop, inter alia, arterial hypertension, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism disorders, posture defects (scoliosis or lordosis, flat feet, knee valgus). Girls may experience menstrual disorders, and boys - puberty disorders. In addition, obese children feel unacceptable, inferior, lonely, and do not believe in their own strength, which can lead to emotional disturbances in their development, and even depression.

Children with excess body weight are exposed to complications that, as adults, will struggle with for the rest of their lives, and also for a shorter time. What might be waiting for them? Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, ending in a heart attack or stroke, fatty liver, even cirrhosis, gallstones, hormonal disorders, sleep apnea, degenerative changes in the systemosteoarticular as well as some cancers (including colon, breast, prostate).

Worth knowing

Law on "junk" food

Pursuant to the amendment to the Act on Food and Nutrition Safety of November 28, 2014, which entered into force on September 1, 2014, the sale and advertising of unhe althy products is prohibited in schools and kindergartens. Sweets, chips, fast food and instant food, sweet drinks, including energy drinks, have disappeared from school shops. You can buy for this, among others sandwiches made of dark bread, vegetable and fruit salads, salads, low-sugar yoghurts, kefir, fruit and vegetable purees.

Read more about it>>>Junk food disappears from school shops

Treatment of childhood obesity

Serious diseases that are complications of obesity can be prevented early by treating a child with excess body weight. Parents should not, however, conduct such therapy on their own. A random, poorly composed diet can harm a child. Therefore, the first steps should be referred to a pediatrician or a metabolic disease clinic. The starting point is an interview (information about the family's lifestyle, diseases) and assessment of the child's overweight. To check this, BMI is used in conjunction with percentile grids. If the BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile, the child is diagnosed as overweight if it exceeds the 95th percentile - obesity. Additional tests are sometimes performed to rule out diseases that can lead to excessive weight gain.

The formation of excess weight is fostered not only by the computer and TV in the child's room, but also … the lack of siblings. Over 20% of singles and 15% of singles are overweight; in large families - 10% of boys and 9% of girls

The next step is to choose the right diet, taking into account the needs of the developing organism, and at the same time allowing for a gradual weight loss (1-2 kg per month). Drug treatment is usually not used. Treatment of overweight or obesity in a child extends to the whole family. All household members should change their diet so that the child is motivated to lose weight. Non-strenuous but regular physical activity is equally important. Walking, swimming and cycling are recommended. In Polish conditions, the treatment of overweight and obese children is difficult, it requires the cooperation of a pediatrician, dietician, psychologist, and physiotherapist. Unfortunately, there are no nutritionists or psychologists in the system to deal with this. The solution could be to look for sources of financing other than the National He alth Fund. A good example is the Gdańsk City Hall, whichfor several years it has been financing the program "6-10-14 for He alth", including screening for obesity in children of the selected age, as well as full educational and therapeutic intervention in those who have been diagnosed with he alth problems (more:

You must do it

Prevent obesity from a small age

  1. During pregnancy, take care of a he althy, varied diet. Control your weight: if you are underweight, you can put on 16 kg, when you are he althy - around 12 kg, if overweight or obese - 9 kg.
  2. Try to breastfeed your baby for at least 6 months.
  3. Start expanding your diet with vegetables. A yearling should know the taste of most vegetables and fruits.
  4. Do not add s alt and sugar to your dishes, as they overburden your body and adversely affect your taste preferences.
  5. Give your child water to drink.
  6. Do not overfeed or force your baby to eat.
  7. Make sure your meals are regular. There should be 5-6 of them during the day.
  8. Serve fresh or baked fruit, seeds, and plain yoghurt between meals.
  9. Make sure your little one has plenty of opportunities to exercise outdoors. Encourage him to be active with your example.
  10. Give your baby enough sleep. Shortening it increases the level of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), which increases the appetite.

Watch the video: Child obesity expert

Important supports safe treatment and a dignified life of people suffering from obesity. This article does not contain discriminatory and stigmatizing content of people suffering from obesity.

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