Childhood obesity: what are we doing wrong? The role of parents
The phenomenon of childhood obesity is reaching worrying dimensions worldwide and not even the beautiful country is spared, despite the fact that the Mediterranean diet is widely used. We asked Romina Cervigni, nutritionist biologist, Scientific Director of the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation, to help us understand this phenomenon and above all to make us understand how to counter it.
In this article
- What is meant by an obese child?
- Childhood obesity: the facts of the phenomenon
- What are the causes of childhood obesity and what is the role of parents?
- How can we intervene if we realize that our child is obese?
- How to prevent childhood obesity?
- Are there any WHO guidelines on the subject?
Listen to the podcast with the expert's answer
What is meant by an obese child?
"When we talk about obesity in children, we often tend to underestimate the problem, because it is a common belief that excessive weight decreases with growth. Unfortunately, however, this is not always true and indeed it is. it is essential to lay the foundations for a correct lifestyle already in the first years of age since an obese child will most likely be an obese adult, with all the risks of suffering pathological complications. For example, the probability of developing diabetes as an adult compared to a normal weight child is four times greater than a normal weight child. "1
Read also: Longevity diet for pregnancy and while breastfeeding
Childhood obesity: the facts of the phenomenon
"The excessive consumption of food and a lack of physical activity lead today's environment, especially in Western and developing countries, to an increase in obesity that does not spare even the smallest. The magazine The Lancet, for example, in 2022 it launched a alarm about obesity worldwide, reporting 41 million children under the age of 5 and 340 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 who were overweight or obese.2 Also in Del Paese, if we look at the pre-pandemic situation in detail, about 3 out of 10 children / teenagers were overweight or obese. These numbers are comparable to those of the United States of America and the lockdown and the extraordinary situation of the pandemic have worsened this situation ".3
Read also: Mediterranean diet: good for adults and children
What are the causes of childhood obesity and what is the role of parents?
"Both children and adults eat too many starches and too many proteins, which cause an acceleration of aging and excess weight, while cereals, legumes and vegetables are consumed too little. Surely the consumption of snacks and sugary drinks has also increased, but it represents a problem only for a small percentage of the Del Paesena population, who only consume them occasionally. Bread, pasta, pizza, potatoes - le 4 p -, rice, fruit and fruit juices are consumed every day by Del Paeseni childrenThese foods are rapidly converted into 5 cans of fizzy drinks or 10 tablespoons of sugar in sugar. 4 These poor eating habits predispose to inflammation, weakening of the immune system, alteration of the intestinal flora, with consequent alteration of the ways that control the sense of hunger and satiety.5 Furthermore, in addition to clearly the ongoing emergency, which has exacerbated an unhealthy lifestyle, characterized by the consumption of highly caloric foods and a sedentary lifestyle, the strong prevalence childhood obesity can also be attributed to parents' lack of perception of the weight of their children. The family therefore plays a primary role, influencing the lifestyle and food choices of children. According to data from "OKkio alla Salute", a weight monitoring system in children aged 6 to 10, most parents of overweight and / or obese children believe that their child is under / normal weight , that he carries out an adequate motor activity and that the quantity of food eaten is not excessive, although this does not actually correspond to reality ".6
How can we intervene if we realize that our child is obese?
The diet of children and young people must be complete and include all the nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, fiber and water to help us in the prevention and / or treatment of obesity. Therefore, if we find that our child is gaining weight in an unhealthy way, we can apply some changes to its diet, without changing its habits.
How to vary the diet. "For example, we can reduce some foods that are too starchy (and therefore sugar) such as the 4 p's - pasta, bread, potatoes, pizza - by increasing high-fiber foods such as legumes (e.g. peas, chickpeas, beans, or lentils) and the vegetables he / she likes most. In this way the child will have a very abundant and tasty dish, but at the same time less rich in sugar and more nutritious ".7Read also: Childhood obesity, risks and prevention
How to prevent childhood obesity?
"The key to success is linked above all to food education which must already be carried out at home, thanks to the example of parents, but also at school, through initiatives such as webinars designed specifically to educate young people on these topics, in an engaging way and interactive, to consciously encourage healthy choices ".
Are there any WHO guidelines on the subject?
"The production of information / dissemination material and events for schools, families and institutions organized by Valter Longo Foundation responds to the call to action by international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) whose plan aims to stop the increase in the rate of childhood obesity by 2025.8 This goal is fundamental because it would help us prevent and to control noncommunicable diseases that are most common among adults, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The need for action to stop childhood obesity is therefore evident, and even if it is not in everyone's spotlight, it now represents a parallel, but no less important, pandemic and a reality that we will have to deal with once we get back to "normality".
Romina Inès Cervigni, nutritionist biologist of the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation, has to his credit a PhD at the Open University in the United Kingdom obtained by focusing his studies in the oncology field. You have also collaborated with the National Research Committee (CNR) of Madrid and with the VitaSalute San Raffaele University of our city, dealing with neurodegenerative diseases. Thanks to his studies in Nutrition and Dietetics, with a second level Master's degree at the Polytechnic University of Marche, he integrates pharmacological therapies for various pathologies through a dietary therapy. You have collaborated with the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation since its creation and assist patients with various pathologies from all over the world on a daily basis.
Sources for the article
Del Paesen Obesity Barometer Report 2022
Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2022 Mar
OERSA. "Covid-19: how did our eating habits change during the lockdown?" 20.05.2022.
Valter Longo: "The Mediterranean diet has been distorted, so it hurts"
Gut Microbiota and Obesity in Adults and Children: The State of the Art
OKkio to HEALTH, 2022th edition, XNUMX
Longevity diet for boys
Taking Action on Childhood Obesity
- childhood obesity
- obese child