Childhood Obesity is a common problem in the western world, it stems from excessive consumption of calories, which means eating more than your body needs on a daily basis. Because these calories aren’t used up, they’re stored as fat on the body. There are a number of factors which contribute to obesity and eating junk food, sitting in front of the TV and computer games are some of the main culprits. However, it’s not always down to a bad diet and low activity levels, sometimes obesity can be caused by genetic and glandular problems.
I’m going to take a look at some of the reasons behind childhood obesity and also look at ways to help your child maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
Dr Christian is going to teach the parents and children of Bellevue Primary School how to avoid piling on the kilos with a lesson on the cells that make us fat.
What are fat cells called, do you know? Have you ever heard of what a fat cell is? It’s a very technical term. They’re called adipocytes.
A new baby is born with 5 – 6 billion fat cells, this number increases as we grow. A healthy adult has between 25 – 30 billion and women generally have more than men.
So what do you think happens if you are taking in too many calories or we are eating too much food and you’re not doing any exercise? What happens to your fat cells.
They get bigger.
They get bigger, they store more and more fat. And just like a balloon, they start off like that and they can be very small and then you start storing energy, storing energy and see what happens, blow your balloons up. They’ll get bigger and bigger like that and that’s why you start to get fatter and fatter. but it gets worse, once they get to a certain size, they’ll divide, they’ll divide into two and then you will get an extra fat cell and that will get bigger and bigger. You’ve seen people that are absolutely huge because this will go on and on and on for as long as your body can cope with it. And how do you shrink those fat cells down?
You need to exercise.
You need to exercise, and when you exercise and start burning calories, they go down and they’ll get smaller and smaller and that’s called losing weight.
If you’re a parent there’s a one in three chance that your child is over-weight or obese, in fact last year a fifth of all ten to eleven year olds were classified as obese and some children as young as five are showing signs of heart disease. But perhaps the most shocking thing of all is that childhood obesity is entirely preventable.
It’s essential to encourage your child to eat a balanced diet with sufficient fruit and vegetables and it really helps to make set times for meals and limit snacks in between. But remember diet alone is not enough, it has to be accompanied by exercise and it’s best if you can set a good example yourself. If you don’t act now your child could be at risk of some serious health problems in the future.
Obesity can cause Type 2 diabetes, which is a condition where sugar levels in the blood are too high. Common symptoms are excessive thirst, repetitive and excess peeing, tiredness, loss of muscle bulk, as well as recurrent thrush and itchy genitalia. It’s a progressive problem which can ultimately lead to heart disease, stroke, nerve and eye damage and in some cases blindness. There’s no cure for diabetes and it has to be managed with diet and exercise as well as some forms of medication.
There are medical conditions which can cause weight gain, so if your child suddenly starts putting on weight it’s important to find out why.
Cushing Syndrome is a rare hormonal disorder caused by high levels of steroids in the blood which could result from a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain. It causes sudden weight gain and bloating around the chest and stomach. Other symptoms can include heavy sweating, mood swings, muscle weakness and also high blood pressure. It is rare in children but it’s definitely worth getting your child checked out if you think they may have some of these symptoms.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and it helps to regulate the metabolism of the body. Hypothyroidism is a condition which attacks the thyroid gland and stops it from working properly. This causes a reduction in thyroid hormone which consequently slows down the metabolism. This results in weight gain and feelings of tiredness. It can also limit growth and delay development in children. Other signs of it include dry hair and skin, a constant feeling of being cold, constipation and depression. However, it is a rare condition and it affects just 1 in 700 young people. Treatments and medications are available, however.
Obesity can cause all sorts of health problems later in life including heart disease, strokes and osteoarthritis. It is vital that your child maintains a healthy weight through good diet and exercise and the only way they will learn this is if you teach it to them.
You can use our Lifestyle Checker and Development Milestones applications to help keep track of your child’s development and make sure they’re getting enough exercise to maintain a healthy body.
Dr Christian Jessen explores childhood obesity: the factors that contribute to it, such as diet and exercise, as well as genetic and glandular problems; and the ways in which it can be prevented. On a mission to reveal all there is to know about obesity, Dr Christian takes a trip to Belview Primary School. Here, he teaches the parents and children about adipocytes: the cells that make us fat, in order to explain why children may become obese and how it can be prevented. Back in the clinic, Dr Christian reveals the risks of obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis. He also explores the medical reasons as to why our children might gain weight, such as Cushing syndrome and hypothyroidism. To help keep track of your child’s development, don’t forget to check out our online lifestyle checker and development milestones applications.
Please visit Patient UK to find out more about Obesity and Diabetes UK to find out more about diabetes.
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