All of these health problems are currently more common in people in middle age who are overweight or obese. However, there is growing evidence that as obesity in children increases, these sorts of chronic illnesses will plague them in their 20s and 30s, not in their 50s. Worryingly, type 2 diabetes, which is usually found in people over 40, is becoming more common in teenagers. In addition, obesity in children leads to further problems as the body of the child is put under strain as it is still growing. Problems in the bones and joints, including bow legs, gall bladder disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and poor vision are all caused by obesity in children.
The government is worried that the escalation of chronic illnesses in young adults with growing families, who are important contributors to the economy, will cause very serious social issues. For one thing, the National Health Service will be overwhelmed – and this is projected to happen sometime between 2020 and 2030.
Obesity in children – what can be done?
The British Heart Foundation has recently called on the government in the UK to be much clearer in its advice about how much exercise children need every day if the current rise in obesity in children is to be stopped. At present, school-age children get some exercise but nowhere near the 60 minutes a day that the BHF say is needed to keep the heart healthy – and to keep the weight from piling on. As they quite rightly point out, preventing obesity in children is always going to be more effective than tackling it once it has become a problem.
Experts agree that promoting regular exercise and a great awareness of what makes up a healthy diet is useful. However, some think that the problem of obesity in children starts virtually from birth and health education for parents should be a priority. Research has shown that obesity in children is lower if they are breastfed for at least six months from birth. Bottle-fed children show much higher rates of obesity.
The key seems to be that education is important for everyone. Today’s generation of young parents needs to become more aware of the dangers of eating highly processed foods and doing virtually no exercise – for the sake of their own health and that of their children.