Obesity in children leads to health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Obese children are also at high risk for developing low self-esteem and depression. Addressing these problems early promotes better health in adulthood.
Problems and health issues related to excessive weight gain
Type 2 diabetes. It is a chronic problem resulting in high blood sugar secondary to a less than ideal response to insulin, the hormone that regulates sugar. Being less physically active and gaining weight are risk factors for development Type 2 diabetes.
High cholesterol. A poor diet leading to excessive weight gain is a risk factor for high cholesterol. A family history of high cholesterol also increases the risk. High cholesterol can lead to thickening of blood vessels called plaques and ultimately increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Arterial hypertension. It is also a problem related to obesity. High blood pressure for a long time increases the risk of plaque forming in the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to kidney damage.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Obesity is associated with an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver. This can lead to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and liver failure.
Respiratory problems. Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious health problem that results in interrupted breathing during sleep and is more common in obese children. This can lead to excessive fatigue and drowsiness during the day, as well as an inability to concentrate at school.
Joint problems. Excessive weight gain can put pressure on the joints of the back, hips, knees and ankles, affecting mobility and leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. Rarely, obese children can develop a hip joint problem that causes abnormalities in the upper end of the femoral bone, which requires surgery.
It is always best to seek help from your child’s doctor if you are concerned about weight gain. Your child’s doctor may use the body mass index to assess the level of weight gain. (A child with higher muscle mass and body structure may have a higher BMI, and the doctor will take this into account.)
Your child’s eating habits, activity level, other health issues, psychological issues, and a family history of weight issues will help better understand and guide treatment plans. Doctors can also check blood sugar and cholesterol levels and monitor thyroid function.
How can we manage obesity in children?
It is important to determine if your child is at risk for obesity, and then to avoid excessive weight gain. It starts with the setting Healthy eating habits as a family and encourage physical activity.
- Overweight and obese children would be best served with the help of a multidisciplinary team consisting of a pediatrician, dietitian, physiotherapist and pediatricians, and sometimes a psychologist.
- A weight maintenance program can help your child grow taller and get closer to normal BMI.
- Children between the ages of 6 and 11 can be placed on a diet and physical activity program to encourage weight loss of no more than 1 pound per month.
- For older children, a weight loss goal of 2 pounds per week is generally reasonable.
- The support and commitment of the child’s family is needed to help with feeding and encourage physical activity.
- It’s also important to create healthy eating habits, which include limiting high carbohydrates, like cookies and crackers, and limiting sugary drinks like soda or juice.
Weight loss drugs are rarely used in children. Weight loss surgery is sometimes recommended for adolescent patients who have been unable to lose weight due to lifestyle changes. The doctor may recommend this option if the risk to your child’s health from obesity poses a greater risk than the potential problems from the surgery.
It is important that a child assessed for weight loss surgery is seen by a team of providers experienced in the care of obese children. Obesity surgery may not always lead to weight loss and requires diet and physical activity to achieve optimal results.