Lack of sleep can affect eating and weight in children

Parents should set an example for children by following a healthy lifestyle

New Delhi, 27 January 2018: As per a recent study, poor quality of sleep in a child can affect his/her eating habits and weight. Over time, this can also lead to childhood obesity, which can further put them at a greater risk of developing obesity-related cancers in adulthood. As per the study, shorter sleep duration, measured in hours, was associated with a higher BMI z-score (body mass index adjusted for age and sex). Each extra hour of sleep was associated with 0.13 reduction in BMI z-score and reduction in waist circumference of 1.29 cm.

Statistics indicate that India has the second highest number of obese children in the world after China. About 14.4 million kids in the country have excess weight. Globally, over two billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Childhood obesity is a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child’s health or well-being. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on BMI. The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing in India and is being recognized as a serious public health concern. Unhealthy diet (eating foods high in fats, sugar and salt -junk food, processed food) and a sedentary lifestyle contribute significantly to this escalating epidemic. Also, TV, internet, computer and mobile games have taken precedence over outdoor sports with children becoming more sedentary. Childhood obesity is well-recognized as a precursor to obesity in adulthood. Most obese children grow up to be obese adults.”

Obese children and adolescents are more prone to bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Habits such as eating healthy and engaging in regular physical activity must be inculcated right from a young age. Parents should serve as role models for their children and set the right example by following a healthy lifestyle themselves. Schools can help in shaping the lives of students and have a very important role to play in the battle against childhood obesity. Healthy habits in childhood lay a foundation for a healthier adulthood.”

Here are some tips that parents can follow at home to tackle obesity and overweight in children.

  • Encourage healthy eating habits even at a very young age.
  • Try making favorite dishes healthier. Few changes can make even snacks healthier.
  • Avoid tempting children with calorie-rich food. It is okay to treat them but in moderation and by limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks.
  • Make kids understand the importance of being physically active.
  • Lead by example. Indulge in at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day.
  • Reduce sedentary time. While reading is a good option, too much of screen time is not. Make regular sleep time and good sleep a priority.
  • Replace screen time with the outdoors and fun activities to keep children engaged.

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