In the last few years, the number of kids aged 5 – 17 years classed as obese roughly tripled. This is startling news for parents indeed! Children who are overweight have significantly more health issues, including the potential for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and decreased life expectancy. So what causes children to be obese? There is a vast amount of research showing the benefits that a healthy diet and regular exercise can play on decreasing and maintaining a child’s weight. However, there are also other factors at play that impact your child’s propensity to be obese. So, are you wondering if your child will be fat? Read the five indicators of obesity in children:
1. Overweight parents
Was mum overweight before she fell pregnant? Research has shown that mothers who were overweight before becoming pregnant increased the likelihood of their child becoming overweight by age 7, by four fold. And even mums who were overweight in early pregnancy more than double the chance of the child being overweight at the ages of 2-4 years. And what about now? Consider your and your partner’s Body Mass Index (BMI). If one or both parents are overweight, the chance of your child being overweight is much higher. In fact a recent study at the University of Glasgow shows that children are even more likely to be obese by age 7 if both parents were obese. The exact proportion of weight attributable to genetics is unclear as the home environment; eating and lifestyle habits may all contribute to weight gain.
2. Too much screen time
Count up how many screens are in your household from smart phones to laptops and TV’s. You might be shocked! Although interacting with technology is a daily occurrence, screen time is widely considered to be one of the biggest emerging factors in childhood obesity. Researchers are divided as to the exact nature of the correlation between screen time and weight gain. Increased calorie intake, increased exposure “junk food” advertising and decreased physical activity are all factors but the jury is still out on which plays the biggest part. Some experts now recommend children under two should not have any screen time and older children should be limited to one or two hours a day.
3. Weight in early life
Babies that have a high birth weight and rapid weigh gain in the first twelve months of life, are more likely to be overweight in later life. Gestational diabetes may also be a cause of weight related issues as it often contributes to higher than usual birth weights. Breastfeeding, however briefly, has been shown to have an impact on controlling weight gain in babies. And research also indicates that babies who are breastfeed for longer than one year are less likely to become obese children.
4. Lack of sleep
A rather surprising contributor to childhood obesity is not getting enough sleep! Researchers have found a link between the effectiveness of the appetite suppressing hormone and the number of hours of sleep. They are able to pinpoint that for each one-hour reduction in sleep, there is an increase by 40 percent in their risk for obesity. Studies have proved that children aged 2 years and under who do not get the recommended amount of 13 hours sleep a day have a significant higher chance of being obese by age 7.
Research has shown that genetics can play a part in a child’s predisposition to storing fat. Professor Paul Zimmet, an international expert on obesity from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia believes childhood obesity is greatly influenced by genes. His findings showed up to 50 percent of obesity cases were directly attributable to genetic factors.
Parents can help to manage obesity in young children, regardless of genetic make up, by instilling healthy eating habits and active lifestyle activities. Investing in active toys and outdoor play equipment can make a remarkable difference to a young child’s health.
About The Author: Suzie Sinclair is an advocate of promoting healthy lifestyles as part of early childhood development. She supplies Zooba, toddler toys. Zooba are fun, fitness toys designed specifically to increase physical activity, co-ordination, balance and to reach early developmental milestones.