A mother’s biggest concern is the health and nutrition of her child, from the moment she becomes pregnant, till the child becomes adult and there also it doesn’t stop, throughout her life the well-being of her child is of utmost importance to her. But sometimes many, physical, environmental and social factors interfere with the child’s health and cause disruption in the normal weight and height gain.

Childhood obesity is a condition in which child is significantly overweight for his or her height and weight. It is assessed by calculating BMI (BODY MASS INDEX), usually overweight is defined at 85th to 95th percentile of BMI and at risk for overweight as between 85th to 95th percentile.

Amongst many nutritional disorders, childhood obesity is a matter of concern which is rising at an alarming pace in both developing and developed countries. It is reaching an epidemic level; India has become the second largest country of childhood obesity cases. Now what could be the causes of this rise in the number of overweight and obese children.

The central physical cause of obesity is the imbalance of energy intake from food and energy expanded through physical activity. Excess weight is also caused by a number of other contributory factors like medical, social, environmental, medicinal.

Scientific research has identified a number of components that may contribute to childhood overweight and obesity:

Genetics: there is an increasing evidence indicating that an individual’s genetic background is important in determining obesity risk, but along with genetics, environmental and behavioral factor affect obesity, therefore, though genetics play a role in the development of obesity, it is not the cause of the dramatic increase in childhood obesity.

Medical: certain hormonal disorders and other medical condition along with certain medicines may be the cause of weight gain in children. These could include thyroid disorders, pituitary disease, medicines like steroidal inhalers and systemic steroids, anti-psychotic drugs, anti-hypertensive drugs etc.

Nutrition: the rise in junk food, consumption, sugary beverages, chips, baked goods, candies, increased portion sizes have led to the increase cases of overweight in children.

Physical activity and environmental factors: With increasing media usage there have been less involvement in games with good physical activity, there is less social interaction and play.

The environment a child is in makes a lot of impact on its eating habits, how is the environment at home and school, what are the eating habits of the family and friends all these influences the eating habits of children.

Also, when food is awarded as a reward, the reward usually includes food items rich in sugars, saturated and trans fats, which are high in calories and low on nutrition.

Mental health and mood: family stress, lack of cognitive stimulation, emotional support, mental and physical health problems may lead to erratic eating habits.

Sleep hygiene: inadequate sleep, short duration of night time sleep in children up to 4 years of age leads to 2-fold increase for overweight and obesity. Sleep apnea in children up to 12 years of age linked with 3-fold increase incidence with every standard deviation.

Media usage: Not more than 30 minutes of screen time for 2-5 years, 60 minutes for 5years and  up should be allowed, each additional hours of television per day may increase the prevalence of obesity by 2%. Advertisements of sweetened products, salty snacks etc. influence the child towards their increased consumption. Watching screen for long hours lowers resting energy expenditure, also eating while viewing lead to greater energy intake.

Consequences:

Childhood obesity has been linked to numerous medical conditions, these conditions include, but are not limited to fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, asthma, hepatic steatosis, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, skin conditions, menstrual abnormalities, PCOS, impaired balance and orthopedic problems.

Although most of the physical conditions associated with childhood obesity are preventable and can disappear when a child reaches a healthy weight, some continue to have negative consequences throughout childhood.

Obesity and overweight in children are associated with significant reduction in quality of life and a greater risk of teasing, bullying and social isolation, anxiety/depression, binge-eating disorder, night eating disorder, bulimia.