Amid a rise in the number of overweight and obese children, experts suggest prevention strategies in collaboration with governmental and community-led agencies.
According to a research report, obesity levels among children and teenagers have increased ten-fold over the last several years and in Oman almost a quarter of young adolescents are found to be obese. Children growing up on fast food diets are being classed as obese as young as five years old. And high cholesterol and heart disease are seen in people in their early 20s.
Globally, in 2016 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 41 million. Almost half of all overweight children under five lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa.
“Healthy eating and physical activity should be promoted and encouraged in schools, nurseries and childcare centres to control the most serious non-communicable disease”, suggests the research report in Oman Medical Journal.
“Some contributing factors include eating outside the home, television and computer viewing for long hours, eating while watching television, exposure to food advertising, extra snacking, and lack of physical activity”,
points out the report. Eating outside the home has increased in primary schoolchildren in the age group of 6 to 11 years. The proportion of obesity exceeded 50 per cent among those who eat outside the home more than five times per week.
“Chocolates, sweets, potato chips, soft drinks, and nuts were reportedly the main foods consumed while watching television”, reveals the report. The main television food advertisements preferred by children in the age group of 5 to 12 years included fast foods, chocolate and sweets, milk, and soft drinks.
“Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority”, suggests the report. A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.
MUSCAT, JULY 20