Child Obesity's Heavy Burden

Crop of Children with various body composition...Image via Wikipedia

By Sushma Veera

CHILDREN need lots of 'nutritional fuel' because they are growing. A varied and nutritious diet is essential for their 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.

Being a few extra pounds overweight does not mean a child is obese, although this may indicate the child's tendency to gain weight easily, and a need for changes in diet and exercise.

Obesity means having too much body fat. Unlike adults, the acceptable amount of fat in a child changes as he/she matures from infancy to toddlerhood, through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Therefore, there isn't a fixed Body Mass Index (BMI) cut-off that defines obesity in children (paediatricians use a BMI centile chart to measure obesity). The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines overweight as a body mass index (BMI) of at least 25 and obesity of at least 30. However, studies have shown that the health risks of increased body fat rise progressively above BMI levels of 20-22.