Childhood obesity, which is caused primarily by an imbalance between energy intake (diet) and energy output (exercise), is a problem that’s growing at an alarming rate.
Here are a few troubling statistics to illustrate the point:
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- In 2013 around the world, some 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese, an increase of more than 30% since 1990.
- If nothing changes, there will be 70 million overweight infants and young children by 2025.
- In Canada, the rate of childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the last 30 years.
- Obese adolescents have a high chance of being obese as adults.
More than just a temporary social trend, childhood obesity has a direct impact on the health and lifespan of children. What are the risks associated with obesity? How can you tell the difference between normal “baby fat” and a child with a weight problem? What are the solutions? Here are some of the answers to these questions.
As is the case for adults, excess fat accumulation in children and youth increases their risk of developing many long- and short-term health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance, often an early sign of type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea and other respiratory problems (e.g. asthma)
- Bone and joint problems (e.g. arthritis)
- Certain forms of cancer (colon, breast and endometrial)
- Reduced life expectancy
This is in addition to the impact of obesity on emotional well-being (low self-esteem, depression) and social health (bullying, teasing, rejection).
Calculating and interpreting the body mass index (BMI) of children
The BMI of children and youth is calculated in the same manner as it is for adults. You can obtain it easily with the BMI calculator available on our Website or simply by using the following formula:
BMI = weight (kg)/height (m)2
BMI = (weight [lbs]/height [inches]2) x 703
However, all BMI results for children must also be interpreted based on where they are on their growth charts (special charts used to monitor the development of children, teen boys and teen girls over time). Children’s BMI values are plotted on the charts according to their gender and age to determine if they have a health or weight problem.
Solutions to consider
Restrictive dieting is not the recommended course of action to help children achieve a healthy weight. You should start by consulting a health professional to get an accurate assessment of your child’s situation and obtain professional advice.
You also want to address the issue as a family (not just with the child who has the weight problem) by making lifestyle changes, such as adding exercise to your family routine and encouraging everyone to adopt healthy eating habits.
If you have questions about your child’s health, talk to your family pharmacists. They’ll be more than happy to help.