Will your child’s excess weight be problematic in later life?
Posted on 29 September 2017
Childhood obesity rates are soaring. In South Africa, almost 4 million children could be affected in the next few years. Parents should be on the lookout for warning signs from an early age.
‘We live in an obesogenic environment (promoting obesity),’ says Dr Raksha Takoordeen, a specialist paediatrician based in Kwazulu Natal. ‘While genetics can play a role, it is the diet and inactive lifestyle of our current era that are mostly to blame.’
Diets rich in refined sugar and saturated fats predominate. This, together with a decline in actual energy expenditure, are the main causes of obesity in children. Add in other factors like psychological stress and anxiety, and one has a perfect recipe for unnecessary comfort eating. But as Dr Takoordeen explains, being observant and vigilant can help.
‘It is no secret the average age for obesity is getting lower,’ she explains. ‘That is why parents should be on the lookout from before pre-school age. Weight monitoring is important from birth, as is a child’s growth rate. These factors help identify potential obesity and the type of intervention required.’
Takoordeen offers the following pointers as warning signs for possible obesity:
– Rapid weight gain over a short time period.
– Outgrowing clothes quickly.
– Larger than normal appetite.
– Persistent hunger.
– Snoring at night and persistent sleep apnoea.
– Bowed legs.
And while excess weight is well known for causing further complications such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, it is the associated psychological factors that are often overlooked.
‘Childhood obesity can lead to depression,’ explains Takoordeen. ‘A child’s self-esteem takes a beating if they are overweight, compounded further if they are teased or bullied. Eating disorders can arise as a result.
‘It is therefore important for children to be part of the food preparation process,’ she advises. ‘Parents should encourage their children to shop with them, get them involved in home cooking and also set a good example. A child is far less likely to fall into bad eating habits if both parents are healthy.’
(1) Statistical reference in paragraph 1: