A third of all children entering middle school are obese in urban Indian cities. Till five years back, that number was less than half.
This startling leap is a ticking time bomb and now there’s enough medical proof. Scientists in the US conducted imaging scans on obese 8-year-olds and the results leave little room for doubt. Thickened heart muscles and increased muscle mass – a sign of strain on the heart muscle – can lead to stroke, abnormal heart rhythm, heart failure and sudden death.
Old Before Their Time!
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania compared 40 kids between the ages of 8 and 18, half of them were obese and the other half were of normal weight. Scientists scanned their hearts via a detailed procedure called the cardiac magnetic resonance. The findings reiterate the predictions of many doctors, obese children and teenagers show hints of future heart problems, but no one was expecting such stark results:
- Obese kids as young as those in standard 2 had 27% more muscle mass in the left ventricle of their hearts and 12% thicker heart muscles compared to normal weight children.
- They also showed early signs of decreased heart functioning.
- It is possible that this damage can be permanent and irreversible.
It’s not just heart issues. Obese or overweight kids have a very high risk of getting cholesterol problems, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, sleep apnea and even stroke – chronic ailments reserved for pensioners.
Obesity in kids is not measured the same way as in adults. Children are considered overweight if they are in the 85th to 95th percentile of body mass index, for all children their age. Simply put, if they weigh more than 95 per cent of kids their age and height, they are considered obese.
This was a small-scale study and researchers plan to enroll 200 children for a deeper look at other factors such as blood pressure and diabetes and whether they also influence heart changes.
Can You Outrun Obesity?
A team of top British scientists have busted the myth that only regular exercise can tackle obesity.
In a harshly-worded editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, experts say that you can’t outrun a bad diet only through regular exercise. While the latter cuts down the risk of diseases like dementia, some cancers and type-2 diabetes, it doesn’t cause weight loss, unless teamed with a strict diet.
Now this should be a clear message to the parents of the three out of ten school going kids in urban Indian cities who are clinically obese. Unless your child eats a balanced, calorie-controlled diet, physical activity alone won’t cut it.
What can be worse than young bodies and young minds getting ready for retirement? Childhood obesity has to be taken as a huge red flag before our children pass the point of no return.
(26 November is the Anti-Obesity Day – an international day to raise awareness around obesity as a public health hazard. This article was originally published on 26 November, 2015 and has been republished from The Quint’s archives.)