Obesity Spreads beyond Affluent Children
By Express News Service | Published: 22nd March 2014 11:30 AM |
Even as rise in childhood obesity has become a cause of concern, the phenomenon spreading to hitherto insulated population beyond the affluent sections as well as suburban pockets like slums has set alarm bells ringing.
A cross-sectional study among school going pre-adolescents in the suburban areas of Cuttack has shown more than 12.2 per cent of them to be overweight or obese. The findings have spurred public health experts to press for greater awareness about the dangers of being obese along with integrating good lifestyle, diet and behavioural practices both at home and school.
The study conducted by a team of researchers, additional professor of Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) Bhubaneswar Dr Sanghamitra Pati, associate Subasisa Swain along with team leader International Clinical epidemiological network, India and Mohammad Akhtar Husseini of the School of Population Health, Brisbane, Australia, took around 550 students from seven schools in the millennium city. About 4.5 per cent were found to be obese while 7.6 per cent were overweight. Among boys, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 11.9 per cent and girls 11.3 per cent.
But what has caught immediate attention is that weight gain among a significant proportion of children was a recent phenomenon brought on by sudden improvement in lifestyle and changes in dietary habits. It was found that due to increasing availability of junk food and their consumption has led to intake of empty calories with little or no protein.
This has led to increase in central obesity, which predisposes children to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as they grow. According to studies, obese children have at least 50 per cent higher risk of developing both the diseases than non-obese.
“We have found that sedentary lifestyle has crept in the less well-off sections also giving rise to obesity in children. Major chunk of the obese or overweight children were single children where they were prone to be more pampered and protected. As high as 64.5 per cent or around two third of obese or overweight children are single offisprings,” Dr Pati said.
The practice of walking to school has shown a decline with more and more parents transporting them on vehicles. Less physical activity, sports and games coupled with increase in screen viewing are taking a toll, she added.
As the problem of obesity grows and not restricted to the affluent and better off sections, the issue should be dealt with urgency. Apart from educating the parents and teachers, initiatives like compulsory physical activity, controlling screen viewing time and adopting healthy food habits both at school and homes can be beneficial, the study has recommended.