It must be every parent nightmare seeing the headlines published by the National Obesity Forum stating that their children are likely to die before them.
The point is, if someone is fat? …. Were they born that way or is it a result of poor learned lifestyle choices at an early stage of development by an over indulgence of rich dense foods and inadequate exercise.
This article will take a look at the nutritional stages of childhood and current research concerning obesity in children.
Why is it important to consider if the child is simple plumb and just carrying around a certain amount of fat to cope with environmental or seasonal factors or do they harvest the seeds of fatness that will remain throughout the individual life.
There has been many studies carried out to investigate childhood obesity and most have attempted to focus on the role of heredity but on the whole, these have been complicated by the different ways parents rear their young which takes in cultural, poverty and geographical location to mention a few of these variables .
Some of these issues have been resolved by twin studies because it is reasonable to assume that a pair of twins will be reared in more or less the same way by their parents.
This is why studies of twins are of such interest to genetics, especially if they were separated at birth.
One such milestone carried out sometime ago looked at overweight parents and found that almost half the children would be overweight if one parent within the household was overweight but this percentage rose to 80% if both parents were also obese. From those studies, it certainly looks like the fine thread of nature and nurture runs throughout the genetic predisposition on one hand and poor nutritional control or education on the other.
A current study by Paediatric Research on overweight mothers found higher levels of fat within their offspring livers which has the likelihood of them acquiring a lifelong metabolic condition such as diabetes. MR I scan on babies at a London hospital found a strong correlation between the amounts of fat in the child’s liver cells and this increased in direct proportion to their mother’s body mass index (BMI)
This study pointed out that almost half of the British women of child bearing age was either overweight or in some cases clinically obese and therefore pre-programming their future children to become obese themselves. Having a sick child can be both psychologically and financially difficult within single or two parent families when continual time off work is required to look after the child or take them to attend medical appointments.
Is your child fat or just (puppy fat) chubby
Those within a certain age may remember Billy Bunter whom everybody found so funny in fiction, but also so tragic in fact. The politically correct party has attempted to hide this false image from our television set but in reality; it is well documented that overweight people are less successful in job interviews and have fewer choices in life.
Some children have glandular problems, but most are perfectly healthy overall but simple very fat and their condition is very difficult to control with drugs, diets or behavioural therapies.
Some of them will grow out of their weight problem, but unfortunately, many don’t. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that long hours of maternal employment was a key indicator of childhood obesity because their children had less access to healthy food and activity.
There is over whelming evidence that obesity in children has been on the increase for many years, a British study in 1998 found 23,951 children obese, whereas 10 years later this study was repeated and the total number rose to 85,302. Many had been treated for clinical obesity in hospital.
Anxiety and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia has also been observed in children who then became obese adults. An interesting remark was made within this study - parents who impose strict faddy diets or Yo – yo, from one diet to another send out the wrong messages to their children that food is dangerous and complex.
It has been suggested that your weight will eventually be determined upon the number of fat cells you have has a child. Fat cells (adipose tissue) is critical for the individual survival and has a number of vital functions. We are born with two different types of fat cells, one being a specialised fat cell (brown fat) which has thermogenic (heat production) properties and mostly located on the upper part of the back. This tissue is more obvious at birth and provides heat to the baby and is compensatory for the loss of our fur during evolution.
This enables the child to adapt to its new and possible hostile environment following gestation. The theory behind some of the high fat diets is that this brown fat is being retained this way and any excess calories accumulated are being removed more easily by this metabolic activity in the form of heat.
Another fat cell is the white fat tissue that is abundant and also has an important function within the body but it has rightly had some bad press coverage due to health issues and being cosmetically unpleasing to the eye. The theory is that the white fat cells have a blueprint in which the capability to hold excess calories is determined during childhood.
It has been postulated that overeating as a child will programme the capacity or volume of these cells to retain more potential energy reservoir / capacity in the future and the child will remain fat for evermore.
There are certain periods in a child’s life when they tend to accumulate a lot more fat but remember that childhood is a time of rapid growth and development with increased demands for energy, protein and essential fats with nutrients such as iron and calcium is needed. During the first nine months, there is rapid growth and the numbers of fat cells then increase, being more obvious in males.
After this initial fattening up period within infancy, fat will be lost in both gender until the ages of eight or ten years of age. Although the total numbers of fat cells themselves will not decrease and girls lose more body fat than boys during this period. There have been some conflicting evidence on breastfed children and bottle fed babies during this stage in which nature’s plumping up process could carry the individual into obesity in later life.
It appears that the critical period for programming obesity could be after the age of ten in males and puberty in females. This certainly looks like over nutrition during this stage could influence the filling capacity of fat cells to be determined in preparation for any food shortages that fails to emerge but the over abundance of nutrients sends out the wrong messages. At this stage, white adipose organ is more sensitive in receiving a lifelong message in controlling this potential reservoir of energy which becomes extremely resistant to change after this period.
In girls, their body weight is closely related to the age at which menstruation starts and a fat child could mature earlier than a thin child. The period of menstruation will also be related to the date the long-bones stop growing. Young girls who take the contraceptive pill hormone will also gain weight.