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kidsChubby children are so much cuter than the skinny ones, and the majority of mothers, often egged on by mothers in law, tend to over feed their babies so they can become chubby cherubs. But mothers need to be aware that overfeeding an infant can lead to the not-so-cute problem of childhood, and eventually, adulthood obesity.

In the recent past, childhood obesity has become a growing concern, especially in affluent societies, as overweight children develop a host of physical and psychological problems that adversely affect their health and social development.

Overweight children are at the risk of suffering serious health issues in the short term. They also have the tendency to remain obese in their adulthood too in which case they are most likely to develop life threatening conditions including high cholesterol, hypertension and raised blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Overweight children are also at risk of developing Type Two diabetes, asthma and respiratory diseases. Other possible disorders include possible liver disease, early puberty or menarche, and skin infections. Social and peer pressure has been known to lead to anorexia and bulimia too.

Such children are also more vulnerable to emotional or psychological problems stemming from teasing and discrimination. Sociological studies have indicated that obese children and teens are prone to depression and suffer from low self esteem which hamper social skill development and often result in unemployment, poverty and being loners.

Apart from heredity and genetics, doctors and scientists blame poor lifestyle choices for the sharp increase in childhood obesity: too many calories and too little physical activity are the key culprits. There has been a movement towards raising awareness amongst parents, caregivers and even schools to introduce their children to a healthy lifestyle as early as kindergarten. This includes plenty of physical activity, healthy food options and appropriating food portions.

It’s never too early to introduce your children to a healthy lifestyle and inculcate good eating habits.

– Dr Samia Babar
The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on January 27, 2013.