Life-threatening ailments such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and type 2 diabetes most often afflict adults. But they are often consequences of childhood obesity. The fuse was lit way back.
So as a matter of urgency, we must try to prevent undue weight gain in young children and teenagers.
Two new studies of more than half a million Danish children, followed for years, link a high BMI in children to an increased risk of developing colon cancer and suffering an early stroke as adults.
One study of more than 257,623 people found for each two to three point increase in BMI as children, the risk of developing colon cancer rose by 10%.
The second study involved 307,677 Danish people. It showed the risk of developing a stroke in early adult life increased by a quarter in women and a fifth in men for each two to three point increase in BMI at ALL stages of childhood, especially at the age of 13.
The thing is, overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults – unless they take up healthy eating and exercise.
This is borne out of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which says obesity most often develops from ages five to six or during the teen years, and “studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80% chance of becoming an obese adult”.
A 2014 study found that overweight five-year-olds were four times as likely to become obese by age 14, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race or ethnic group or birth weight.
The shocking truth is that the fallout from being an overweight or obese child doesn’t necessarily wait to show up later in life. Many organs are affected long before adulthood. And then there is high blood pressure, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, low levels of protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, sleep apnoea, asthma, knee and hip pain and difficulty walking.
And not to mention the higher rates of depression, a poor quality of life, poor body image, low self-esteem and confidence, even more so than those who become obese as adults.
The task of preventing undue weight gain falls to parents, who are responsible for what and how much children eat and how active they are.
Not easy when a study found 85% of parents of five-year-olds underestimated the weight of their kids.
Sadly, these children don’t get thinner, they just get fatter.