Childhood Obesity

Before, children used to play outside. Now, they play indoors. What constitutes ‘play’ has changed that ‘playing’ mobile games require minimal physical activity. The lack of physical activity causes obesity which is a risk factor for lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, certain cancers, etc.

But what we might be missing here is that children have stopped playing outside not only because they have got newer playing tools like video games, smart phones or laptops. They stopped playing outside because the playgrounds have been vanishing. Every small open space is used to construct a building.

When I go to Pfutsero to the locality where I was born and raised; right in the middle of my childhood football ground, there is now a staff quarter building. It is very important for town and city planners that in each locality, there is a park or an open space where children can play and adults can walk.

Price of healthy food like organic vegetables and fresh fruits are skyrocketing. Junk food is easily available and affordable for everyone. Junk food is a slang word use for food items which are low in nutrition and high in salt, sugar and fat: potato chips, aloo bhujia, fried chicken, burgers, pizzas, carbonated drinks, etc. Because of junk food, 20% of school children in India are overweight. In the diet, not more than 30% of energy should come from fats. But in potato chips, 50-60% of calories come from fats. When you drink a 300 ml of carbonated drink like coca cola or pepsi, you have taken 2 days quota of your sugar requirement. Any sugar you take beyond this (tea, sweets, even fruits) is not healthy for you anymore.

The high salt content in junk food is not only for the taste or preservation of the food item. Salt produces a craving similar to that of an addiction. So, it is said that junk food alters the brain activity like what cocaine or heroin does to an addict. Now that Maggi is off the shelves, there are alternatives which are making their way to the market. Although high lead content was the reason for banning Maggi, salt content would have done so much more damage to the health of children. Each packet contains 3 grams of salt while the daily recommended salt intake for adults is 5 grams. There are about 25 adverse health conditions which are caused by excess salt intake. It is time we pay attention to the labels on the junk food packets.

About 30 % of the world’s population is overweight and this is increasing rapidly. The major modifiable risk factors for obesity are lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet. The financial burden of this obesity is an estimated £1.3 trillion a year or 2.8 percent of global economic activity. The reversal of this trend lies in teaching and training healthy lifestyle for our children, because once obesity sets in, the recent research study shows that it is extremely difficult to go back to normal shape.

WHO recommends that children between 5 to 17 years of age should accumulate at least 60 minutes of -moderate to vigorous- intensity physical activity daily. Physical activity includes play, games, sports, transportation, recreation, physical education or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities. Vigorous intensity activities (by which muscles and bones are strengthened) should be included at least 3 times a week. Balanced diet consists of greater portion of rice, bread, pasta; followed by fruits and vegetables; and less of meat and milk products; with fats, oils and sweets to be consumed the least.

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