Child obesity is becoming one serious condition in Uganda, as in all African countries. The trends are simply startling. To be obese is to overweight and it is a very complex disorder which has increased its prevalence significantly in the recent years. According to Ivan Wycliffe Nyombi, a private practicing nutritionist in Kampala, children may be obese but usually have fewer weight-related health and medical problems than adults. However, the irony is the fact that majority cases of obesity of adults have their origins in childhood and this is why it is a very serious pediatric concern that should be combated early because overweight children are at a high risk of becoming obese adults.
Mr. Nyombi continues that children who suffer obesity are at a high risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life.
Also, a child who is having this condition is very prone to getting teased by his or her friends at school. This may damage her self esteem forever – not to mention sadness and anxiety.
The most usual way to tell that your child is becoming overweight is by observation. However, sometimes the Body Mass Index [BMI] is used to determine.
BMI is calculated by dividing weight by the height, multiplied by two and this is mostly done by a health worker. Normal values vary with age, sex, and standard curves. A child is considered obese when the BMI exceeds 30kg/m2.
Causes of Obesity In Children
Mr. Nyombi says that this condition has a tendency to run in families. However, not all children with a family history of being overweight will find the same problem. In any case children whose parents or siblings are overweight, stand at an increased risk of becoming overweight themselves.
He continues though, that these are the lesser cases.
Apparently, during childhood, excess fat accumulates when total energy intake exceeds total energy expenditure. This energy imbalance can result from excessive energy intake and/or reduced energy expenditure; the latter is usually a consequence of an inactive lifestyle.
This is particularly associated with excessive television viewing, excessive computer use, and insufficient physical activity. In infancy, excess fat deposition occurs when excess energy is provided, especially when the protein-to- energy ratio is altered. This is often seen when feedings are supplemented with additives such as carbohydrates or fat and protein content remains the same.
In a few cases, this condition is also caused by a medical condition such as hormonal problems.
Eating habits are also serious causes of obesity in children. This is especially true with the family’s consumption of high fat and sugary foods instead of the healthier options,
Children who have obesity are likely to suffer from sleep disorders, Type 2 diabetes, eating disorders, problems with foot structure, liver problems, respiratory disorders such as blocked airways and this leads to breathlessness during exercise.
It also causes Cardiomyopathy which is a problem with the heart muscle, caused when extra effort is needed to pump blood.
How Society Has Contributed To Obesity
The Obesity issues have become more prevalent in Uganda because of the recent changes in the lifestyle of the people. This has led to people eating more while being less active. These have led to an increase in how children become overweight.
Among these societal changes include the following;
Lately food is prepared at schools which don’t care to watch the diet they feed the children on. And sugar-intense drinks are readily available at schools and everywhere. This was not the case in prior times.
The increased availability of fast foods [such as fried potato chips, chaps, chapaati] is a major cause of obesity today. This is because most of these foods are dense with energy contents – this includes the invasion of energy drinks on the Ugandan market.
The role of physical education in the school curriculum has reduced.
Nyombi advises that managing a healthy diet for the children is very critical to attaining a healthy weight. It is important to set balanced diets which are manageable according to one’s financial status. Relatedly, parents are advised to monitor what their kids eat whenever they go out – whether at school or other outing.
Parents are also advised to keep away or at least regulate the sugar or energy drinks their children take.
The time children spend on video games, and computers should be regulated by their parents. In preference, children should get more involved in physical activity which allows them to sweat and burn up the extra fat sitting dormant under the skin. Being more active is essential. Children are advised to use at least four hours of play [physical] in a day.