Overweight and obesity in children is one of the most serious global public health challenges, and is associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood. In addition to increased future risks, carrying extra body weight can put children at increased risk for developing serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
Obese children may also experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects. Recognising and treating weight problems and obesity in children, may reduce the risk of developing serious medical conditions as they get older.
Childhood obesity also takes an emotional toll. It is important for children to develop high self-esteem, feeling good about themselves can affect their mental health and behaviour. In many cases self-esteem can be closely linked to body image and weight. Overweight and obese children often have trouble keeping up with other children and joining in sports and activities. Other children may tease and exclude them, leading to low self-esteem and negative body image.
Addressing weight problems in children requires a combination of physical activity and healthy nutrition. Most cases of childhood obesity are caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Children need enough food to support healthy growth and development. But when they take in more calories than they burn throughout the day, the result is weight gain.
The number of calories a child should eat each day will depend on their age and height. If you have concerns about your child’s weight, talk to your doctor who will advise you on recommended daily calorie limits.