childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus

A child is considered obese when 32% of its total body weight is fat in case of a girl child and 25% in boys. General rule of thumb is that if the weight for the height is 120% more than the ideal weight then it is considered obese. Another accurate measure is the skin fold method. A child who begins life as an obese individual will in all likelihood be obese for the rest of his or her life. Childhood obesity is linked to several conditions like diabetes type 2 and pediatric hypertension. Children who are obese also have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease later on in life. Such children are also prone to joint disorders due to excess weight. Such children are also vulnerable to social and psychological problems as they face ridicule from colleagues and peers.

Children with both obese parents are likely to be obese due to genetic factors. The parents eating and behavior pattern also influences the child. A household in which the parents watch the television frequently and do not indulge in an active lifestyle influences the child into thinking that this is normal behavior. Such children will not show any interest in sports and will also indulge in watching television and thus lead to an imbalance in the energy level of the child. When little energy is expended obesity creeps in. This combined with consumption of high calorie snacks is a sure invitation to morbid obesity in a very young age.

However, not all children that watch television and do not have an active lifestyle go on to become obese and hence the scientific community continues to search for other causes. It is a known fact that heredity is largely responsible for body fat distribution, and the response of the body to overeating. It has also been observed that children born to obese mothers put on weight faster than children born of normal or ideal weight mothers. Children born to obese or overweight mothers generally put on weight in the first three years of their life faster than children born of normal mothers. Treatment programs for obese children and adolescents generally do not have weight loss as an objective. The very purpose of such treatment is to halt or slow down weight gain and allow the child to have normal weight as the child grows up.

For effective treatment of childhood obesity it is important for the parents to be involved in the treatment program. It is easier to change the dietary and exercise habits of children than adults. The treatment program should be such that it helps maintain the lost weight and also increases the metabolism of the child. This program has to be complimented with encouragement to change the behavioral pattern. Children who are successfully treated gain additional health benefits like improved blood pressure and lower blood lipid profile.

Type 2 diabetes was until recently known as adult onset diabetes but with more and more children falling prey to this condition it is only natural to remove prefix ‘adult ‘. When the body of an individual cannot make sufficient insulin or cannot use the insulin produced efficiently, the resultant metabolic disorder is called as diabetes.

It is clear from the above information that prevention of obesity and type II diabetes in childhood is easier than treating it. The prevention can be successful only when there is significant parental involvement and parental education. Parents should be encouraged to lead by example and follow a healthy lifestyle and also select good nutritious food and monitor their child’s television viewing.

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