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Childhood obesity. How to prevent our children?

25 April 2022

Key points:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that Mexico ranks first in childhood obesity.
  • The average age of a child living with obesity is 9 years old.
  • Childhood obesity is a disease that must be treated in a multifactorial way.

Data reported by the World Health Organization mention that Mexico is considered a malnourished country that ranks first in childhood obesity and that, according to the 2020 National Health and Nutrition Survey (Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición, ENSANUT), 24% of overweight children are under 8 years old and 26% of obese children are 9 years old. Dr. Carlos Alberto Antillón Ferreira, a pediatric endocrinologist at the ABC Medical Center, comments that the latest ENSANUT survey reported that practically 1 in 3 people of school age have some overweight or obesity problem. It is worth mentioning that the WHO reports that 44% of Mexican children between 6 and 23 months of age do not consume fruits or vegetables and 59% do not consume eggs, milk, fish, or meat.

Furthermore, he adds that: “obesity has a genetic origin, the Hispanic race has a greater predisposition to suffer from it, as well as the consumption of high-calorie foods, sugary drinks, and the lack of physical activity is a direct cause of these diseases; in addition to the high consumption of processed foods and junk food”. (…) “In the first 1000 days of birth, much of the future of the human being is determined and the tendency to be overweight or obese can be generated. During the first year, the consumption of milk formulas can contribute to weight gain, therefore, it is recommended to breastfeed them”, he mentions.

Overweight and obesity in children increases the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, altered lipid metabolism, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, conditions that, unfortunately, we are seeing quite frequently in adolescents, not to mention that they are more prone to respiratory problems such as asthma and sleep apnea.

In addition, it is common to observe that childhood obesity causes depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and many suffer from bullying.

The parents must check that their children do not have acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition that is characterized by dark and velvety areas in folds such as the neck and elbows and that generally appears in people who are overweight or obese.

Due to this, childhood obesity must be treated as a disease and in a multidisciplinary way from the beginning with the attention of professionals in each required area, because children must recover their health and prevent future diseases such as metabolic syndrome.

“ABC Medical Center has experts for the care of childhood obesity, the idea is that it be a joint effort with pediatricians, endocrinologists, nutritionists, sports medicine, and psychologists. We provide first-class care in terms of prevention, treatment, and follow-up of children with obesity”, the expert mentions.

The treatment must be comprehensive, but it is not the same for everyone, some children require pharmacological therapy, and others who only need a nutrition plan, physical activity, and emotional support, but it all depends on the severity of the disease and timely attention.

Parents should look at the growth charts and measure the body mass index (BMI = weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared). “The BMI value varies according to age and gender, it is considered normal if it is below the 85th percentile, when it is between the 85th and 95th percentile, it is an overweight indicator, and if it is above the 95th percentile it is an obesity indicator.

When referring to whether children are candidates for bariatric surgery, Dr. Antillón mentions that it is best not to go through these procedures and to detect them in time. “What we want is to prevent overweight and obesity from becoming normalized, we should not expect a 15-year-old patient to weigh 120 kilos, this type of surgery can be done on adolescents, but only as an alternative in serious cases, the ideal is not to come to this”.

Finally, the childhood obesity expert recommends that mothers, fathers, and children have a good diet with the “healthy eating plate” that includes the nutrients that the body needs, avoid products labeled with a high caloric index, perform physical activity for at least 45 minutes, and reduce the excessive use of electronic devices.

“The important thing is not to stop eating what we like, nor to follow strict diets, it is to learn to be healthy, improve our lifestyle, and have medical follow-up”, concludes Dr. Carlos Antillón of ABC Medical Center.

At ABC Medical Center’s Pediatric Center, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!

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