In the recent past, the number of children and in particular adolescents who are committing suicide or attempting suicide has been on an alarming rise. Whilst an array of reasons are cited for this, among the top of the list is body image. This is aggravated by bullying both on social media and in school. Interestingly, some studies have shown that the self-perception of weight weighs more heavily on our children than their actual body weight. This means that there is a disconnect between how much you think you weigh and what you actually weigh. So what is childhood obesity?

Childhood obesity is defined as simply a condition where one’s measured weight is significantly higher than the expected for the childs height and age. A number of causes are linked to this including genetics, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets or most commonly a combination of all these.

How do genes play a role in obesity? Many genes have been found to play I roll in our weight. However there is no conclusive evidence that shows the possession of a particular gene to automatically result in being overweight. Nonetheless, in general, certain genes can predispose one to being overweight and here is how. Food intake is regulated in the brain. When we eat, hormones such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin are released that signal to the brain that we have had enough. The brain then interprets it and we feel full and stop eating. Since genes are key players in the signaling and response, alterations in them causes an effect such that the body does not respond as expected causing one to want to eat more even when the body has had enough.

On determining obesity there are many methods. The most common is using the BMI(Body Mass Index) method. This is calculated from 2 measurements; one’s weight and height. Using your weight in kilograms and height in squared meters. So for someone who is 54 kilograms and 1.5 meters tall it would be 54 ÷ (1.5× 1.5) which equals to 24. The results are then interpreted as follows;

18.5 to 24.9 = normal weight 25.0 to 29.9 = overweight

Over 30 = obese

Another method used is the waist to hip ratio. This is calculated from dividing the waist circumference by the hips diameter at its widest point. One can also use the waist circumference alone to measure abdominal weight obesity. This measurement is taken at the umbilicus point of the abdomen. Other less common methods include bioelectric impedance, skin fold thickness, underwater weighing and many more.

There are many health risks that are linked to childhood obesity. These include diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is advisable that the guardians of children with childhood obesity encourage living a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating exercise and replacing junk food with healthy foods will go a long way. A lot of emotional support should be given to the child to avoid developing mental health problems. All bodies are worth celebrating and keeping healthy.

Book an appointment with a paediatrician and ensure your young ones health today

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