Obesity : A New Threat to Teens

Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

The World Obesity Federation (WOF), which represents members of scientific, medical and research communities from over 50 regional and national obesity associations, has calculated the risk of 191 countries acquiring a major childhood obesity problem over the next decade. Easy access to fast food, increasing screen time and more motorised transport are the cocktail of factors that sends obesity rates soaring around the globe, says the report.

The obesity time bomb is ticking for teenagers. A World Obesity Federation global study states that an estimated 27.4 million children and teenagers in India will be afflicted by obesity in 2030, placing India just behind China which tops the world with 61.9 million obese five to 19-year-olds in just over a decade.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is one of today’s most blatantly visible yet most neglected public health problems. We see approximately 50 minors in the two to 18 year age group every week for obesity and related issues. This is just the tip of the iceberg, most of these children have severe obesity or complications related to obesity.

Doctors say obese children are more at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing difficulties, bone and joint problems, and even type-2 diabetes. They are also more likely to have weight problems as adults, they said. The number of young patients I treat for obesity-related ailments has doubled in the last five years. The problem was compounded with pain in the legs, compelling the couple to consult a doctor. The doctor said all these symptoms were related, who teaches at a playschool. We are seeing overweight kids with issues like liver enzymes, deranged lipid profile, glucose intolerance, constipation, and sleep apnoea.

Multiple studies have proved that obesity not only hampers physical life, but also productivity, self-esteem as well as emotional wellness among children and adolescents. This problem among teenagers can be attributed to unhealthy eating habits, poor physical activity levels, less sleep combined with increasing screen time.

Though there are hereditary and genetic causes for obesity, the most common reasons are a sedentary lifestyle, increased screen-time, lack of role models in families and easy access to junk food.

Many overweight children have reported depression too. Childhood obesity is terrible because it robs children of their right to be active and run around. Obese children are also bullied, which leads to low self-esteem and at the onset of puberty could cause depression. Instances of heart attacks in your teens and diabetes before they reach the age of 20 are rising at a scary rate in the country. During the last five years, my colleagues have had to operate on several obese teenagers.

A worrisome feature is that obesity in young is soon becoming an accepted feature in the society.

Experts blame unhealthy lifestyles for the rise in obesity among children. We are going haywire in our food and physical activity. And even the parents are not conscious enough. They do not want their children to go out and play. So much of eating out is one of the primary reasons for obesity. Nowadays with so much activity on phones, children are moving less and leading sedentary lifestyles.

Schools need to be more mindful of what they offer in their canteens. Tim Lobstein, one of the authors of the WOF report, likened the situation to global overheating’, in the sense there is resistance to intervene’ even for the greater good. He also blamed global manufacturers of soft drinks and processed food for fuelling the problem.