Focus 27: Obesity

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Childhood obesity in India

More than 15 million children would currently be overweight and 4 million abdominally obese in urban India.

Childhood obesity is a recent epidemic with a high magnitude in India. Nine studies including 92,862 subjects were identified and analyzed. The prevalence of overweight was estimated to be 12.64% and that of obesity to be 3.39%. Current evidence suggests that policies and interventions for children should prioritize reduction of obesity and overweight.

Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has both  immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.

Immediate  health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and  joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as  stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term  health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be  obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as  heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and  osteoarthritis. One study showed that  children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as  adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types  of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus,  kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well  as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Prevention

  • Healthy lifestyle  habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of  becoming obese and developing related diseases.
  • The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children  and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families,  communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based  institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage  industries and entertainment industries.
  • Schools play a particularly critical role by  establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that  support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to  learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Source: CDC and the references there in for more info.

There may be no single approach to reducing obesity, but every little bit can help against such a widespread, multifaceted public health problem.

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Young people aged 10-24 years represent 27% of the world’s population

The contribution of risk factors to the global burden of disease arising in young people are:

  1. Neuropsychiatric disorders (45%),
  2. Unintentional injuries (12%), and
  3. Infectious and parasitic diseases (10%).

Study conducted to understand the link between childhood obesity/overweight and adult depression summarizes that:

“Childhood or young adult overweight/obesity was associated with elevated risk of adult depression. These results, if causal and confirmed in other prospective studies, support treating childhood and young adult overweight/obesity as part of comprehensive adult depression prevention efforts.”

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