Childhood obesity

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Childhood obesity
Childhood obesity

Obesity in children is a global concern due to related diseases that are becoming increasingly common.


Obesity in growing children

Childhood obesity is a growing global problem. The problem has become so worrying that several international organizations are studying the issue very seriously, including the World He alth Organization (WHO). According to the latter, measures must be taken immediately to counter this epidemic and its repercussions.

This document presents the definition of obesity in children, the consequences and causes, some tips and Internet links on the subject.

What is childhood obesity

Obesity is generally defined by a weight representing more than 20% of the he althy weight, the latter being calculated according to the body mass index (weight/height ratio). In children from 0 to 36 months, the growth curve is used to determine whether their weight is excessive or too low.


Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index (BMI), as measured for adults, is not adequate for children and adults.adolescents since the distribution of fatty tissue is constantly changing during growth and is not the same in boys and girls. An index has been developed specifically for children, taking into account age and gender. By visiting the following link, you can calculate your child's BMI (2 to 19 years old).

Children's Body BMI (or BMI for Age) identifies whether a child is "overweight" or "at risk of being overweight".

Weight too low

Child BMI < 5th percentile

Likely to be overweight

BMI for children between the 85th percentile and the 95th percentile

Excess weight BMI for child

Child BMI < 95th percentile

If your child is at the 60th percentile, this result means that 60% of children of the same age and sex have a lower body mass index. Furthermore, body mass index is not a perfect measure and should be used in conjunction with other evaluation measures such as skin folds, level of physical activity, diet and blood pressure.

The consequences of childhood obesity

A child who is overweight will not automatically be obese as an adult. However, several studies tend to show that after the age of 8, there is indeed a link between weightof the child and its weight in adulthood.

Several medical risks are linked to excessive weight in children, including:

  • High blood pressure;
  • The rise in triglycerides (fat in the blood), thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease;
  • Diabetes;
  • Joint problems (knees, for example) that will eventually limit sports activities;
  • Sleep apnea syndrome (for very obese children), consisting of poor sleep and drowsiness during the day, which can lead to school problems by reducing memory skills and attention;
  • Some studies have shown a link between obesity and certain forms of cancer.

In addition to these physical problems, obese children are often rejected by other children and are more likely to have low self-esteem.

Causes of obesity in children

Many factors explain the problem of childhood obesity. Obesity runs in families. It may be partly genetic, but this problem is mostly related to lifestyle. Most children are not active enough, watch too much television and do not eat properly. In Canada, it is estimated that one-quarter of children are overweight and two-thirds of school-aged children do not get enough exercise for optimal development. Lack of time is oftenat the heart of the reasons given by children and parents to explain a low level of physical activity.

Did you know that you are en titled to a children's fitness amount of up to $500 per year per child for fees paid during the year to a physical activity program for children? That's one more reason to encourage your child to be athletic!

A few tips to help your children

In a leaflet published by the Montreal Children's Hospital, Dr. Legault, pediatric endocrinologist at this hospital, sets out the following recommendations:

  • It is best to choose breastfeeding to feed your child at birth. This is a great way to prevent excessive weight gain in infants.
  • If the child is gaining weight too quickly, you can serve him 2% milk from the age of 2.
  • Lack of time to do physical activities with your children? Sign them up for sports or playgroups.
  • To prevent your child from ending up in front of the TV or computer when they get home from school, encourage them to participate in structured after-school activities.
  • Avoid serving and storing soft drinks and high-sugar snacks, which can easily account for 25% of a day's calorie intake.
  • Make treats not easily accessible in the house and avoid buyingfoods that are not "he althy" (chocolates, potato chips, sweets, etc.). On Halloween, it's good to set a deadline for getting rid of harvested treats.
  • Let your child understand that food should be eaten with meals and that you can't snack all day.
  • Set an example for your child by eating slowly, being more active and promoting physical activities as a family.

A few basic rules to follow

  • Experts recommend children get a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day to maximize their chances of staying he althy and maintaining good physical condition and a he althy weight.
  • Offer your child a variety of appealing, he althy foods from all food groups so they can always make he althy choices.
  • Avoid banning bad foods. Instead, take the opportunity to teach your children which foods can be eaten every day and which foods can be eaten occasionally.
  • Try to set a good example by making good food choices yourself: remember that you are the role model for your children.

Interesting links

  • French site on childhood obesity
  • University of Montreal
  • International association for the study of obesity
  • World He alth Organization
  • Eat Well and Eat Well Educational Kitbe active
  • Canada's Food Guide
  • Tips for getting active by age group from the Public He alth Agency of Canada
  • Childhood obesity, Montreal Children's Hospital, 2003

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