CyberDodo takes on Obesity (2-34)

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What are the consequences of untreated childhood obesity ?

To begin with the most serious, a decreased life expectancy (At adult age, we witness an abnormally high death rate, according to specialists 50-75% !)

Before reaching adulthood, the obese child may suffer from articular problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension – not to mention problems related to socialisation.

Indeed, the obese child will typically encounter additional challenges in terms of being accepted by his or her peers and as such, is often the victim of teasing ; he will exhibit a tendency towards self-exclusion (from hobbies, sports, etc.) – this isolation then compounding the sedantary lifestyle that is very much part of the problem….

A poor diet is one of the main causes of obesity

How can we take on and defeat childhood obesity ?

The answer to this question might seem as evident as it is paradoxical – « By fighting against poverty ! »

It could seem paradoxical because many persons are more apt to associate the word « famine » than « obesity » with « poverty ». And yet, it is evident because, as with so many other terrible dramas lived by our fellow humans, poverty is so often at the root of any given serious problem.

In many countries around the world, populations went from a state of malnourishment to obesity in just one generation. They eat more and more given that food is now more abundant. However, it is of bad quality and the consequences with respect to their health are drastic.

Our generation must grapple with what is an unacceptable paradox – close to one billion persons who go hungry while close to 2 billion of the planet’s citizens are overweight.

In short, there are six main strategies for improving the situation :

First of all, let’s not forget the most important : « The fight against poverty ! »

With respect to local traditions and constraints, inform children and their families with respect to the basic rules for a healthy and balanced diet – primarily prepared at home, and using to the greatest extent possible, fresh produce.

Ensure medical supervision of children, including dietary advice

Promote the practice of regular sport activity, in conjunction with an individual consciousness of calorie control

Control and surveille the content of industrially produced food products and ensure the clear labeling of their contents – as such, ban the worst publicity out there – those for products with too much sugar, fat overload, etc.

Finally, promote the consumption of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as quality proteins.

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For many people, obesity is but a euphemism for someone who is overweight. However, that is a serious error because obesity is actually an illness, the mechanisms of which we will try to understand in this report.

There are several definitions for obesity which vary according to country and culture. Nonetheless, it is still possible to conclude that an obese person is someone with excess body fat in relation to the average for persons of their age, size and sex.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized obesity as an illness in 1997 ; CyberDodo is particularly concerned about the situation of children in terms of this illness. Indeed, it should be noted that the number of obese persons has actually doubled in the last decade and that the phenomenon is expected to accelerate.

Obesity, a global illness

What are the causes of childhood obesity ?

They are many, and the following in particular have been pointed out by specialists :

Genetics :

A genetic predisposition not only to gaining weight but above all difficulty in losing it.

Poverty :

Poverty is a major factor in all societies, as the lack of economic resources forces families to resort to purchasing cheaper and hence, less healthy, products. These food products in turn stimulate the gaining of extra kilos that will often eventually lead to obesity. In fact, there are many people in the world that rarely eat fresh, non-industrially produced food, despite the fact that it is precisely such foods that are indispensable to a healthy diet.

Fast Food :

We are talking about the invasion of the neon signs and advertisements for fast food, also known as Junk Food. The truly grave consequences of the consumption of this type of food were perhaps best illustrated in the film « Super Size Me » starring the American journalist Morgan Spurlock who maintained himself, for an entire month, on junk food – three meals a day.

During just one month, he gained 11 kilos and experienced a drastic increase in his cholesterol level !

Industrially-produced food :

The development of industrial foods, artificially enhanced with sugars (carbohydrates), oils and fats of all type (lipids) – not to mention all of the additives including colorants, conservatives, flavour enhancers, etc.

Education :

Children and their families are not well enough informed with respect to the importance of a balanced diet comprising three meals a day, eaten at set hours ( + potentially a snack for children) – a diet characterised by no snacking between meals and heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as high quality proteins, eaten every day.

Advertising :

In many countries, it is still possible to have advertising – even during children’s programs - for food products that greatly contribute to weight gain given that they are saturated in fat or loaded with sugar.

Certain advertising could most certainly be considered misleading given that, for example, candy comprised of 80% sugar is advertised as « fat free » while there is no indication of the sugar content.