Weighty prob­lem on the rise among SA’s kids

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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.”

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