Childhood obesity is becoming increasingly common across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, the number of obese children has gone up by nearly ten times over the past four decades. In the United States alone, there are more than 14 million obese kids, which is roughly 20 percent of all children in the country.
According to one study, which was published in 2016, obese children are more likely to develop liver, heart, and bladder problems as they grow older. It’s also associated with an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer Depression and social problems are also common.
Despite that, many parents are unaware of its long-term consequences, which is why many cases go untreated.
Dr. Ashley Wells, a physician at Pennsylvania’s Children’s Medical Center, said it’s a “multifaceted problem”, which has a lifestyle component that’s dictated by the parents’ decisions as the kids aren’t the ones who are deciding what to eat.
Parents can Prevent Children From Developing Long-term Health Conditions
A new study conducted by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that early treatment of childhood obesity is effective. More specifically, scientists tested three different treatment methods, which involve both the parents and kids.
In total, 170 obese children were followed in the randomized controlled study, which began when they were four years old and continued until they were six. The parents and kids were put into three separate groups based on the type of treatment that they received.
The first group received standard treatment during which the children tried to improve their diets with the help of doctors. The second and third groups differed in that they did not involve the childre, but the parents, who were taught how to promote healthy lifestyles in their children.
The third group also received further support via phone over the course of the study.
As for what the conversations entailed, Paulina Norwicka, a professor at the Karolinska Institute, who was also a principal investigator for the study, said that the conversations focused on how to set boundaries and how to teach new behaviors, as well as how to communicate with adults in their world, such as with grandparents and neighbors.
For instance, the scientists advised parents to make lifestyle choices that not only prevent obesity but also help improve the bonds between family members. Some examples include:
– Not rewarding their behavior with food
– Getting them involved with the cooking process
– Providing them with vegetables when they’re hungry
– Ensuring food isn’t associated with achievement
While most parents are aware of these points, they often fail to apply them to their children’s lives. That’s why the treatments are so important – they are there to remind them of the things that they need to do to prevent their kids from developing obesity.
Two years after the study began, the scientists evaluated the overall health of all the obese children and found that their weights greatly improved in all three groups.
Those who received parental support and those whose parents received follow-up phone calls saw the best improvements. The researchers also found that those in the third group had better levels of blood glucose and lipids.
Early Treatment is More Effective
Obesity is a result of bad lifestyle choices and eating habits and often becomes more complicated over time, which is why early treatment is more effective.
This goes for obese children as well. According to the authors of the study, treatment is more effective for those who are under the age of six.