By Constance Ndeleko
Studies from WHO indicate that; Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight. 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016..
Sometimes we are caught in-between situations that make us forget about our daily needs. Some situations are largely beyond us in that we often don’t remember to fact check with our own health and mental status.
These unprecedented times have made us aware of the need to emphasize on our hygiene least forgetting about our healthy eating habits. Promptly, we have surfaced in our hygiene aspects and downplayed healthy diet especially with the onset of easy accessibility to fast foods. Mostly, that restrictive measures have forced us to adapt to different normalcy where social interaction is limited and outdoor spaces have forcible closed down to enhance safety measures.
Often we have forgotten about building healthy standards, especially with physical exercise even in the limiting spaces that we have been obligated to adapt to. We have largely forgotten about healthy eating which is paramount in the growth and development of our children. Deeply, we should all understand that obesity is preventable and we have to beware of the challenges it brings our children to.
For children under 5 years of age:
- overweight is weight-for-height greater than 2 standard deviations above WHO Child Growth Standards median; and
- obesity is weight-for-height greater than 3 standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median
Overweight and obesity are defined as follows for children aged between 5–19 years:
- overweight is BMI-for-age greater than 1 standard deviation above the WHO Growth Reference median; and
- Obesity is greater than 2 standard deviations above the WHO Growth Reference median.
In Africa, the number of overweight children under 5 has increased by nearly 24% percent since 2000. Almost half of the children under 5 who were overweight or obese in 2019 lived in Asia.
Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. Globally there are more people who are obese than underweight – this occurs in every region except parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been: an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars; and an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death, and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, and early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and psychological effects.
Children in low- and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to inadequate prenatal, infant, and young child nutrition. At the same time, these children are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense, and micronutrient-poor foods, which tend to be lower in cost but also lower in nutrient quality. These dietary patterns, in conjunction with lower levels of physical activity, result in sharp increases in childhood obesity while undernutrition issues remain unsolved.
Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, by making the choice of healthier foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (the choice that is the most accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing overweight and obesity.
When we think of healthy habits of our children, we need to:
- limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
- increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains, and nuts;
- engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults).
As we stay safe let’s be vigilant of our healthy habits and that of our children.