Obesity results from the energy imbalance when a person consumes more calories than their body burns. Many recent studies show an increasing prevalence of obesity among adults as well as among children. Obesity in adolescents is a matter of concern, as it is positively associated with other lifestyle bad habits or disorders. And there are certain factors that lead to obesity in adolescents, which are further discussed.
Adolescence is a person between ages 10 and 19. It is a transitional period of growth and development from childhood to adulthood. A growth spurt takes place during this period. It is a period of several metabolic, hormonal changes, physiological, psychological changes. All these consequences lead to a high cost for the health care system. So necessary precautionary measures need to be taken.
Myths Related To Obesity In Children
There are some common food myths about children that scientists Vangal Krishnaswamy, Sashidharan, and Puja Dudeja have addressed appropriately well in their recent paper published in January 2020 on “Obesity in School Children in India,” which is shown in the following table.
|Myths related to obesity in school children||Reality|
|Fat children are healthy, as they are not undernourished.||Fat children are not healthy inside. About 28% of overweight children have syndrome X. They have a risk for chronic lifestyle diseases.|
|With age, children will gain height and loose fat.||The majority of obese children become obese adults.|
|So what, if a child is obese! Obesity is a problem of adults and not of children.||Fat children are at risk of developing early diabetes. Girls may develop polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).|
|Heart disease starts at old age.||Hardening and blocking of the arteries start at 11 years in boys and 15 years in girls.|
|Children do not develop high blood pressure or high cholesterol.||Many children will have high blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol.|
|Children should eat, drink and be merry. Childhood will not return.||Children should enjoy being active as this energy will not come again later.|
|Children by nature are physically active.||Time on TV, the internet, and studies leave little time for play. Many do not participate in sports activity in mandatory sports periods in schools.|
|Observing a child to be fat is considered inauspicious.||Obesity in children should be viewed with concern.|
Factors That Lead To Obesity In Adolescents
The factors that lead to obesity are genetic and behavioral mainly. Behavioral factors are modifiable. It includes a lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, routine sleep patterns, or a combination of these factors. Only in rare cases is it due to medical conditions such as a hormonal problem. Let’s see what possible factors for obesity in adolescents are in detail.
1. Lack Of Physical Activity
Drastic behavior change can be seen among children interested in competitive examination to stop physical activity and adopt a sedentary lifestyle.
- Tuition classes, in addition to their regular school/college, give less time for physical activity.
- Increased screen time due to the attraction of electronic gadgets like mobile, laptop, TV also reduces physical activity.
- Structural elements like roads, the structure of the building, availability of different modes of transport, availability of playgrounds, public parks also affect obesity in children.
- Urbanization is the strongest risk factor for obesity. Youth who study and work develop urban food habits that lead to pressure eating.
2. Unhealthy Eating Patterns
Faulty eating pattern-junk food/fad foods, and even eating patterns of family/peers also contribute to childhood obesity.
The habit of watching tv, playing games while eating tend to overeat as they are not attentive to the signal that they are full. This behavior could come from family/peers. Many times it sets in preschool age. Mothers tend to feed their children by distracting them. They let them watch TV, cartoons, mobile to make their job easier as the child does not resist feeding during watching. But in this process, they are not attentive to signal the feeder that they are full. This tendency of overfeeding themselves continues into adolescence also.
Unhealthy eating habits assumes greater significance regarding children than adults because they are more susceptible to constant bombardment by advertisements for energy-dense food.
- Giving chocolates, toffees, sweetened cereals, carbonated drinks during childhood from peers, media, family members, etc., may become the causes of obesity.
- Misleading food claims/food advertisements on television/newspaper/internet by celebrities.
- There is the easy availability of highly processed ready-made junk foods at a comparatively cheap rate. These foods are consumed just for enjoyment or sometimes to relieve stress. They are radially available but not always healthy. They have high calorie, high fat, high sugar, and high salt. They are habit-forming.
3. Sleeping Pattern
Excess sleep in the daytime and late-night study/screen addiction disturbs sleep patterns. It changes the body clock (circadian rhythm), leading to disturbed metabolism, leading to overweight/obesity. A female has a more fat percentage than a male, i.e., more adiposity. Being obese increases the risk of developing PCOS in females.