Avoiding Childhood Obesity.

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Children need lots of energy because they are growing.A varied and nutritious diet is essential for development.However,like adults,if they take in more energy-in the form of food-than they use up,the extra energy is stored in their bodies as fat.In the UK an estimated one in four 11 to 15 year olds are overweight or obese-and the problem is growing every year.

A Serious Problem.

Research shows that obese children are at increased risk from a number of serious health problems more usually seen in adulthood, including hardened  and blocked arteries(coronary artery diseases), high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. When they grow up,they are more likely to be obese.This means a higher risk of heart attack and stroke,type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, and high pressure in adulthood.The risk of health problems increases the more overweight a person becomes.Teasing about their appearance affects a child's confidence and self-esteem,and can lead to depression. The number of overweight and obese children in the UK has risen over the past 20 years.Obesity is now a majorhealth concern.

Why Are More Children Overweight?

Very few children become overweight because of a medical problem. Research indicates that children are more likely to be obese if their parents are obese. Most children put on excess weight because their lifestyles include an unhealthy diet and a lackof physical activity. It is easier than ever before for children to become overweight. High-calorie foods , such as fast food are abundant and heavily promoted, specifically at children. Excercise is no longer a regular part of everyone's day-some children never walk or cycle to school, or play any kind of sport. It is not unusal for children to spend hours in front of a television or computer. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey(2000), 4 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls do not dothe minimum one hour a day of physical activity recommended by the health education authority.

What Is A Healthy Weight For A Child?

You may find if difficult to tell whether your child has temporary "puppy fat" or is genuinely overweight. In adults , a simple formula(the body mass index, or BMI) is used to work out whether a person is the right weight for their height. However, BMI alone is not an approprate measure for children, because they are still growing.Factors such as rate of growth, age, and sex and the BMI of other children of the same age must be taken into account when assessing your child's weight. BMI is best interpreted with the help of your GP, health visitor, practise nurse or dietitian.

Maintaining A Healthy Weight.

In most cases, experts recommend that overweight children should not be encouraged to actually lose weight.Instead they should be encouraged to maintain their weight, so that they gradually"grow into it" as they get taller.

Children should never be put on a weight loss diet without medical advice as this can affect their growth. Unregulated dieting-particular in teenage girls-is thought to lead to the development of eating disorders.There isn't much evidence for the best ways to treat weight problems in children, but research shows indicates that focusing on making long-term improvements to diet and increasing physical activity may be the effective solution.

Helping children to achieve and maintain a healthy weight involves a threefold approach that encourages them to :
(1.)eat a healthy, well balanced diet
 (2.)make changes to eating habits
(3.)increase physical activity-2004 the Chief Medical Officer reommended at least 60 minutes of at least moderate physical activity a day for children

The good news is that it is probably easier to change a child's eating and excercising habits than it is to change an adult's.

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