Childhood obesity, risks and prevention

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In Del Paese, at 9 years of age, one in 10 children are obese and two out of ten are overweight. And about half of obese teenagers are likely to remain obese even as adults.

Few data are enough to describe a phenomenon, childhood obesity, which the president of the Del Paesena Society of Pediatrics (SIP), Alberto Villani, defines it as still "rampant and persistent".

And the problem is not so much these numbers, as the physical and psychosocial complications that obesity carries with it already in childhood, and that tend to worsen in adulthood. To shed light on these complications is a 2022 document of the SIP and the Del Paesena Society of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology (SIEDP), in collaboration with other Del Paesene pediatric societies, which reports precisely the state of the art of the knowledge available on topic, from diagnosis to treatment to prevention.

For example, it emerges that more than 30% of obese children - one in three - have values ​​of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" one) higher than normal, and lower HDL (the "good") cholesterol values: conditions that expose you to the risk of metabolic syndrome and arteriosclerosis. Still: more than 30% of obese children have it fat stored in the liver. It means there is initial liver damage, which can progress and worsen over time. One in ten children have one blood pressure higher than normal and one in 20 has one blood sugar above normal.

For experts this is a condition of pre-diabetes, which fortunately can still regress, if we intervene with appropriate lifestyle changes (correct nutrition and motor activity). However, that of pre-diabetes is considered a very worrying condition: "Typically, type 2 diabetes appears in adulthood, but we see that it is always appearing earlier" he explains. Claudio Maffeis, professor of pediatrics at the University of Verona. "And if onset is early, diabetes is more aggressive, with complications appearing on average three times earlier."

Precisely to keep these possible complications under control, the document proposes to search for some metabolic alterations (increase in blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure) and fatty liver signals in children with obesity as early as 6 years old.

Read also: Childhood obesity, WHO indications to stop the epidemic

Other conditions can complicate the lives of children and adolescents with obesity. Between these:

  • sleep breathing disorders,
  • orthopedic complications (valgus knee, flat foot),
  • migraine and headache,
  • polycystic ovary syndrome in girls.

The importance of prevention

How to recognize and how to prevent childhood obesity

How to recognize an obese child? How to prevent and intervene? Responds in the podcast under Gloria Barraco, nutritionist and researcher. She is the author of the book "Freshmen at the Table. The first nutrition manual for non-resident students and beyond."

He runs a blog in which he talks about health and biological rhythms and also has two active Facebook and Instagram pages with the name: "The Nutritionist's Workshop".

Prevention: the first 1000 days of life are crucial

The good news is that obesity can be prevented. To do this, it is essential to pay attention to the first 1000 days of life, from conception to the second birthday, which represent a crucial period for the organism's sensitivity to exposure to risk factors or protective factors for its metabolism, with important effects on long term health.

Also read: The first 1000 days of the baby, how much can you influence his future health according to epigenetics

Among the golden rules for prevention are:

  • breastfeeding,
  • weaning according to national recommendations,
  • no to salt and added sugars.

And as children grow up, healthy eating becomes essential (which should be there true Mediterranean diet) and physical activity (at least one hour a day).


Feeding the child 4-6 years, the answers of the NUTRITIONAL PEDIATRICIANS to the doubts of mothers

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The nutrition of children aged 4 to 6 years: here are the most common doubts of mothers, with the answers of the nutrition pediatricians Giacomo Cagnoli and Ilaria Giulini Neri of the NutrMyModernsParents team of ...

To promote correct prevention, SIP and SIEDP have developed a Anti-obesity Decalogue with the rules to be observed from conception and throughout life.

  1. In pregnancy, pay attention to weight and no smoking
  2. Exclusive breastfeeding possibly up to 6 months. It reduces the risk of obesity in later ages between 12 and 26%
  3. Avoid excessive weight gain and weight-to-length ratio gain in the first months of life
  4. Do not introduce solid and liquid foods other than breast milk or infant formula before 4 months
  5. Limit the frequency of food-based venues
  6. Avoid sugary drinks, drinks, fruit drinks with added sugars. In adolescence, no alcoholic beverages and drinks
  7. Reduce the time spent in front of a screen (TV, video games, computer, mobile phone, etc.) to less than 2 hours a day
  8. Respect proper sleep hygiene
  9. Follow a low calorie diet, based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet: at least 5 portions of fruit, vegetables and vegetables, favoring vegetable sources of protein
  10. Don't neglect physical activity

Prevention at school

Not just the family: even the school - where children spend most of their time and from which they learn the behaviors to be implemented - plays a crucial role in the prevention of obesity.

"Some studies have shown the effectiveness of some school measures in the prevention of childhood obesity" recalls Alberto Villani. Between these:

  • la removal of vending machines for sugary drinks and foods rich in salt and fat,
  • l'offering of fruit and water for free or at low cost
  • el 'increased hours of physical education in school and out of school hours.

  • childhood obesity
  • child diet
  • food
  • diabetes
  • 6-14 children years
  • podcast
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