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Some ways to tackle childhood obesity!

Posted:  Monday, August 03, 2015

Childhood obesity, how to tame the menacing condition?

Enough has been said and done about childhood obesity yet it is a problem galloping out of control. Now, American researchers have published 8 new articles in an earnest effort to reduce the rising incidence of childhood obesity. According to them, encouraging social interactions and stricter school nutrition policies could be successful strategies to tackle this menace.

The articles were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity as part of the special obesity issue. The issue called "The Science of Childhood Obesity: An Individual to Societal Framework," provides a peek into the ways to solve the child obesity epidemic and bridge the gap in the current understanding of its causes.

The articles touch upon some important factors pertaining to childhood obesity. The following were the observations from various studies:

- Television viewing time: Increased television viewing has been blamed to be one of the causes of child obesity but researchers feel banishing or reducing TV time is just not the solution. Television could be the preferred mode of entertainment because of complex social factors and friendship dynamics. The researchers based their findings on the Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. The study provided details about health, development and time use of 2,908 students aged 5 to 18.

- School nutrition policies: The researchers looked at the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study conducted in 2010 with 10,887 participants. They found that most school canteens in the US have banned the sale of sugary soda but replaced it with other sugar sweetened beverages such as tea, coffee, and energy drinks. This led to an increase in the consumption of alternate sugary drinks. However, schools which cracked the whip on vending of both soda and alternate sugary drinks did not observe an increase in alternate drinks. The researchers believe that strong enforcement of school nutrition policies could be a solution.

- Obesity and school performance: A study by UTHealth School of Public Health researchers found that obesity could negatively affect school performance. Obese children could miss school, encounter school problems and would have lower school engagement than non-overweight children.

-School poverty and obesity link: Researchers found that students studying in economically disadvantaged schools were 1.7 to 2.4 times more likely to be obese. This association was irrespective of their individual family's income.

- Food environment at home such as structured mealtimes and availability of healthy foods was able to influence the child’s diet for better irrespective of socioeconomic and environmental factors.

- Barriers to food selection: Prices of food, lack of access to healthy foods, and poor quality of healthy foods could be some of the barriers to healthy food shopping. Researchers suggest new supermarkets and community gardens as feasible solutions.

- Discrepancies in self reported weight and height: Researchers assessed the School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) study data for self-reported and actual heights and weights of 24,221 8th- and 11th-grade students. They found that teenage boys overestimated their heights whereas teenage girls underestimated their weights. Hence, the researchers suggest correcting these discrepancies.

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