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Lack of sleep can cause obesity in children-Experts

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IN recent times, the consumption of junk food has been on the increase and experts have linked these high calorie, low nutritional value foods to several health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.

Gone are the days when these health conditions, especially obesity, were linked with adults.

Today, many health experts believe that teen obesity has become a serious problem.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2005, approximately 1.6 billion adults over the age of 15+ were overweight, at least 400 million adults were obese and at least 20 million children under the age of five years were overweight.

Besides the health implications, it could lead to low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, and in the worst cases, suicidal behaviour. Psychologists believe there is a strong link between obesity and self-identity and if obese teens are treated poorly or ignored by their peers, they may internalise those responses.

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy or increased health problems.  People are considered obese when their Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight in kilogrammes by the square of person’s height in metres, exceeds 30kg/m.

Although it could be genetically induced, habits such as eating unhealthy food as well as consuming calories without getting enough exercise can result in excess fat being stored in the body.

According to Dr. Abimbola Dada of Beta Life Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, “obesity is most commonly caused by a combination of excessive energy food intake, lack of physical activity and few cases are caused by endocrine disorders.”

Studies have also shown that one’s family history can determine if one has obesity. A study of identical twins that were raised apart showed that genes have a strong influence on a person’s weight and being overweight and obese tends to run in families. In fact, your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or obese.

There have also been researches to show that lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well. People who sleep fewer hours also seem to prefer eating foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, and obesity.

A hormonal dysfunction such as an underactive thyroid can also contribute to obesity. When the thyroid gland is underactive, it doesn’t produce enough of the hormone and a lack of this can slow down the body’s metabolism and cause weight gain.

Medical experts have stated that if obese teens remain the way they are till adulthood, it can increase their chances of developing diseases like asthma, arthritis or sleep apnea.

According to Dr. Dada, symptoms and complications of obesity can come in any form such as breathing disorders ,for instance sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and certain types of cancer in men, breast and uterine cancer in women, coronary artery (heart) disease, depression, liver disease, gastro esophageal rethix disease (GERD), joint disease (osteoarthritis) and stroke.

There are several ways to curb teen obesity but the most common suggestions are: eating balanced meals with enough fruits, vegetables and protein in addition to getting 60 minutes of exercise daily; eating a healthy breakfast; watching portion sizes and avoiding empty calories in drinks such as soft drinks.

Dr. Dada added that obesity could be treated through dieting and physical exercises. “Diet quality can be improved by reducing the consumption of energy dense foods such as those high in fat and sugars, and by increasing the intake of dietary fiber. Anti-obesity drugs may also be taken to reduce appetite or inhibit fat absorption together with a suitable diet,” he said.

Last modified on Friday, 20 September 2013 12:09

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