It's World Diabetes Day! 1...
Chubby children are adorable, but it may have a dark side: childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity has been growing at an alarming rate in many countries, including Malaysia. According to the Southeast Asia Nutrition Survey (SEANUTS) for children six months to 12 years old, as many as 9.8% and 11.8% of the subjects were overweight and obese, respectively. This is partly due to improved nutrition and living standards in our society. Being overweight and obesity can cause a wide range of health problems, and that's the last thing we want for our future generation.
For obesity in adults, body mass index (BMI) is used to classify overweight and obesity among adults. On the other hand, age needs to be considered when defining overweight and obesity among children:
For children under 5 years of age:
overweight is weight-for-height greater than 2 standard deviations above WHO Child Growth Standards median; and
obesity is weight-for-height greater than 3 standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
For children aged between 5 - 19 years:
overweight is BMI-for-age greater than 1 standard deviation above the WHO Growth Reference median; and
obesity is greater than 2 standard deviations above the WHO Growth Reference median.
If you’re unsure your children have an overweight or obesity problem, consult a healthcare professional.
As mentioned above, children and adolescents with obesity are at higher risks for many health problems — breathing disorders are one of them.
Tradimus, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Asthma is a long-term health condition affecting both children and adults. The airway in the lungs becomes narrow due to inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways. This causes asthma symptoms: cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
The relationship between childhood obesity and asthma is complex — children with asthma do not necessarily have obesity and vice versa. Nevertheless, several studies (1,2) have pointed out that asthma is more frequently observed among children with higher percent body fat than their healthy peers. Higher BMI in children also appears to be linked with more severe asthma. With that being said, the reverse may also be true: asthma limits a child’s physical activity and thus leads to asthma.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition of which there is an obstruction of the upper airway during sleep and the person may stop breathing while sleeping. We discussed OSA among adults before in this article.
Obesity is an important factor that gives rise to OSA, and the prevalence of OSA is markedly increased in children and adolescents with obesity as compared with those with healthy weight. OSA can lead to poor sleep quality and impact the child’s growth.
Let’s recall some basic physiology: our body needs oxygen to function; and at the same time, it’s equally important for our body to remove carbon dioxide from the body. Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is a condition in some obese people in which poor breathing leads to lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in the blood. People with OHS, children and adults alike, may experience the following:
Signs of excessive sleepiness during the day (called daytime hypersomnolence)
Choking during sleep
Impaired concentration and memory
In some ways, OHS is similar to OSA. However, there’s no airway obstruction OHS but it’s rather due to the breathing problem caused by obesity. In a small study of 64 children, higher fat mass at the abdomen area (central obesity) is linked with OHS with severely low oxygen level in the body.
To help children develop healthy eating habits:
Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
Limit sugary drinks.
Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Gotta limit that sugar cravings!
In addition to healthy eating habits, it’s also important to help children stay physically active and ensure adequate sleep. Remember that small changes every day can lead to success!
If you have any questions related to childhood obesity, you can consult our professional doctors and healthcare professionals on DOC2US. DOC2US is a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere. For better communication, you can even send our online doctor images or voice messages related to your medical inquiry.
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