The rise in childhood obesity is a worrisome public health problem. According to data from the World Health Organization, the number of children with excess body fat could reach 75 million by 2025 and studies revealed that the prevalence of overweight and obese children in UAE is around 28 %, which is four times higher than the global prevalence. It is crucial that actions are needed to initiate preventive and interventionist strategies to reverse this epidemic.
One of the criteria to define overweight or obesity is the Body mass Index (BMI). Gender – specific BMI- for -age charts are used and the child is classified as :
Overweight when the weight is ≥85th percentile and <95th percentile Obese (BMI ≥95th percentile and <99th percentile)
Extremely obese (BMI ≥99th percentile)
A website http://cmhsweb.uaeu.ac.ae/childbmicalculator was developed to process BMI values.
Obesity during infancy is a multifactorial disease: it involves genetic, behavioral, social, and emotional factors. Likewise, treatment is usually multidisciplinary, and may include a nutritionist, endocrinologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and physical education professional, in addition to a pediatrician or hebiatrician (doctor who serves teenagers).
How to approach? Early intervention is mandatory: increasing parental control of food choices and physical activity encouragement, improved school health policy as offering better nutrition and exercise, and enhanced public awareness of obesity and its consequences such as the development of type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, arterial hypertension and fatty liver. There is also damage to mental health. Obese children and adolescents often become targets of bullying, which paves the way for self-esteem and socialization problems, anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
One of “weapons“ to fight against childhood obesity recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months, after which it is possible to introduce fresh food. Processed and ultra-processed products, sugar, soda, canned juice and sugary drinks should be left out of the children’s diet until children are 2 years old. After that age, the indication continues to be to avoid these foods, but it is known that this task is made difficult by the modern routine and food marketing industry. Anyway, it is necessary to limit these industrialized products.
The insufficient practice of physical activity and too much time playing with cell phones, tablets, watching television and playing video games lead to a sedentary lifestyle and increase stress levels. It is recommended for children up to 2 years that the time in front of screens is zero. Up to 5 years, time must be limited to one hour a day; from 6 to 10 years, up to two hours a day; and children over 11 years old should not exceed three hours a day on apps, games or social networks — all of which is discounted for study hours and online school activities.
At GluCare, the certificated board team with modern equipment with precise anthropometric measurements, laboratory tests and monitoring can help children and their family to focus on this health issue and its consequences.