Atono Tsükrü Kense
Kohima | November 21
The mushrooming of fast-food outlets along with colourful and attractive advertisement of high calorie fast foods has an irresistible appeal to children, triggering a noticeable change in the diet of children, mostly in urban areas.
With this come the increasing cases of obesity.
According to UNICEF, at least 340 million adolescents worldwide between the ages of 5-19, and 40 million children under age 5, have been classified as overweight. The most profound increase has been in the 5-19 age groups, with an increase in the global rate of overweight children from 10.3% in 2000 to 18.4% in 2018.
Although Nagaland is yet to have statistical record on the incidence of obesity, Dr. Rokolhou Sirie, a pediatrician from Kohima says 2.5% children in the district of Mokokchung were found to be obese in a study conducted on the nutritional status of children. He however, stated that the prevalence may be higher.
Childhood obesity is now an epidemic in India, with the second highest number of obese children after China. In India, childhood obesity is linked with increasing income. A recent study in private schools catering to upper income families showed that the incidence of childhood obesity has shot up 35 to 40%.
Junk foods, lack
of physical activity
Dr Sirie attributed the main cause of obesity to fast foods, snacks, soft drinks etc. He pointed out that the easy availability of these foods as well as lack of knowledge on their adverse health effects is another factor.
Another leading cause, he pointed out is lack of physical activity among children. “Consuming junk food and the lack of physical activities has huge impact on children health” Dr. Sirie said, adding that children must have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to have a healthy body.
To know the main causes of overweight and obesity it is important to know how bodies become overweight or obese, explained Dr Sirie. He explained that the fundamental cause of being overweight or obesity is an imbalance between calories consumed and energy spent (genetics too tend to play a role).
Immediate health risks
Some immediate health risks include high blood pressure leading to cardiovascular accidents like strokes or heart attacks, impaired glucose tolerance/insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulty like asthma and sleep apnea, joint problems like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis and muscular deformities, fatty liver disease, gallstones, gastroesophageal reflux (GER) etc.
As an overweight or obese child grows up, the condition of his/her health could have psychological effects like anxiety, depression, low self esteem and social problem like bullying and stigma, added Dr Sirie.
Dr Sirie also explained that overweight or obese children are more likely to have adult obesity that puts them at risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. They also tend to develop more severe forms of diabetes, cancer and heart diseases compared to others.
Advice for educational institutions
Dr Sirie also stated that schools and day care centre needs to be accountable too. “As an educational institute they ought to set an example in good lifestyle to our children and one way of doing it is providing affordable and health foods for lunch or snacks,” he advised.
While some states in India have taken the measure to ban junk food in and around schools, including the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) in 2017, Dr Sirie opined that “just as we have taken measure to stop tobacco to fight cancer, we too must do something about the junk food that our children consumes without realizing what these junk foods are and the adverse health impact it will cause.”
He further advised parents to realize that children are at a high risk of facing non communicable diseases (NCD) in the future with the amount of junk food they are being fed coupled with lack of physical activities.