Weighty problem on the rise among SA’s kids
WHILE adults continue to suffer from excessive weight gain, the problem of child obesity seems to be getting bigger, with 13.5% of children between the ages of six and 14 considered overweight or obese.
The South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition (SAJCN) published research in 2012 to highlight the rising statistics regarding childhood obesity in the country.
Childhood obesity, however, is not only an issue for South Africa. It has increased globally since 1975, according to new studies.
Poor nutrition during pregnancy, infancy or childhood changes metabolism are said to be attributed to child obesity
“When a child is subsequently exposed to a surplus of energy from a modern diet, obesity and diabetes is more likely than in well-nourished peers.
“Equally, infants born to obese mothers are biologically predisposed to becoming obese themselves – with 70% of South African women overweight, the ripple effect can be immense,” said, Nuraan Cader, spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA.
Weighing in at 28kg at just seven-years-old, the parents of an overweight Phoenix child seem unconcerned.
“It’s just baby fat. It will go away with time. She is not lethargic or lazy. She lives a normal life of a child. It’s probably just in her genetic make up,” said her father.
He did, however, mention his daughter ate more sweets and chocolates than the average child.
“Her grandmother runs a tuckshop and she spends most of her time there after school. So obviously she must be consuming a fair amount of junk food.”
He said when she was at home, she ate as much as any normal kid.
“She eats what we eat, which is normally curries. While we might not restrict her, her intake is not excessive. We have no reason for concern at the moment, but only time will tell.”
Bluff nutritionist, Dr Dean Naidoo, said obese children in urban areas have the same lifestyle diseases as most of their parents.
He said a lack of activity from children, who prefer television, gaming and computers, was also an attributing factor.
“These children are opposed to outdoor sports, swimming and exercise and this behaviour contributes negatively to obesity.”
He said worldwide changes in dietary habits, junk food, media influence and cultural beliefs also contributed to obese children.
Naidoo said when he tested a child for obesity, it was through blood tests.
“Patients are sent for thyroid function tests, fasting glucose, full blood count, fasting insulin and vitamin D3. A thorough physical examination is also conducted to rule out co-morbid disease that could be contributing to the weight gain.”
He said once patients are diagnosed, they are educated about their condition.
“I then explain to them that their diets need to be modified, together with lifestyle changes (exercise, sleep and stress management). Homeopathic medication is administered to help their bodies cope and treat the condition.”
Speaking about a recent child he treated for obesity, he said: “I consulted with a 12-year-old Indian boy in April. He weighed 94kg and had a BMI of 35. His waist circumference was 116cm and his chest circumference was 113cm. He suffered from sleep apnoea and was always tired and lethargic.”
Naidoo said the child had a family history of diabetes on his mother’s side, with his mom developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy with him.
“His blood test revealed he was insulin resistant and had a non-alcoholic fatty liver. He had high cholesterol and low vitamin D3. The patient was put on a diet and given homeopathic medication to treat his liver and pancreas. He was put on a vitamin D3 supplement daily.
“After seven months of treatment, his weight dropped to 80kg, his BMI is now 29 and his waist measurement 84cm vs his chest of 93cm. His sleep apnoea is resolved and he has more energy.
“His clothing fits much better and his confidence levels have improved. He is still on the programme and is aiming for 60kg by early next year.”