Without a doubt parents play a crucial role and are early role models for children in regards to eating behaviours and food choices. Therefore better parent education and support on making healthier food choices and better lifestyle habits, are extremely important to deal with childhood obesity. If parents have limited or no knowledge of nutritional basics, then even with the best intentions, how can we expect them to make better choices? Another challenge for them is to get through the maize of aggressive food advertising and, often misleading, health claims on a large number of products.
Making impact on the obesity epidemic in our society starts with the health of both parents but especially the mother. There are a number of studies indicating that the health of the mother before and during pregnancy has a profound effect on the potential for future child obesity. For example, the 2007 study had shown that high blood sugar and excess weight during pregnancy doubles the risk for childhood obesity between ages 5-7.
Parents also strongly influence children’s behaviours and habits. A 2010 large national study conducted in the US suggested that preschool-aged children are likely to have a lower risk for obesity if they regularly engage in one or more of three specific household routines: eating dinner as a family, getting adequate sleep and limiting their weekday television viewing time. In a large sample of the U.S. population, the study showed that 4-year-olds living in homes with all three routines had an almost 40% lower prevalence of obesity than did children living in homes that practiced none of these routines. Other studies also have linked obesity to the individual behaviours of excessive TV viewing, a lack of sleep and, to a lesser extent, a low frequency of family meals. Interestingly, each routine on its own was associated with lower obesity, and more routines translated to lower obesity prevalence among 4-year-olds, according to the analysis. The link between the routines and lower obesity prevalence was also seen in children with and without other risk factors for obesity.
From a few examples above as well as clinical experience, I believe that effective solutions for dealing with childhood obesity need not be overly complicated or costly, rather they could be based on better education and a ‘back to basics’ nutrition and lifestyle approach, combined with supplemental support, as needed.
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