As early as the age of 7, it is likely that kids have started to battle health challenges that can retard their growth. They include obesity and emotional challenges. And according to British researchers, this is a cycle that can eat deep into their system. Although the reasons for these struggles are hard to fathom, they work hand-in-hand. For example, kids with emotional challenges are prone to being obese, and if you are obese, then anxiety and moodiness will follow suit. All these problems are interwoven and putting a stop to one limits the threat of the other. That is through early intervention; you gain good measure to preventing the havoc.
Charlotte Hardman who’s a senior lecturer at England’s University of Liverpool advised that to curb the menace, “parents need to be enlightened on the fact that weight development and emotional problems work together.” She then advised health care practitioners tackling the issue that “addressing the two health outcomes might just be the way forward.”
The team is scheduled to make their findings public at a meeting of the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, Scotland this week.
Charlotte and co-author Praveetha Patalay researched with over 17000 young children who were born between the years 2000 and 2002. They tracked their mental health and body mass index (BMI – a measure of body fat based on height and weight.) While all efforts to link the effects of obesity and emotional issues together among the children proved abortive, they were able to deduce that the connection grew stronger by age 7. This means that as kids grow older, they are likely to fall victim of this challenge.
Therefore, young children who were obese at age 7 are likely to have more emotional difficulties at age 11. And according to the study authors, at the age of 14, they are at the risk of high BMI at 14. To be explicit, Charlotte said,
“higher body mass index and emotional challenges tended to become pronounced in mid-childhood and adolescence, from ages 7 to 14, rather than in early childhood between ages 3 and 5.”
Also, there is some perceived gender difference. On average, female children of between ages 7 and 14 tended to have higher BMI and emotional problems than their male counterparts.
Hardman noted that while it can be more significant in females than males in that age range, it is imperative for both genders to face the challenges of obesity and mental issues like anxiety or in a bad mood.
Also, in the research, Charlotte and Patalay sampled kids enrolled in the U.K.’s Millennium group Study at ages nine months, 3, 5,7, 11 and 14 years. They collected BMI of participants in the ages listed and subsequently their parents completed questionnaires regarding the mental health of their children. Factors like gender, ethnicity, behavior problems and parents’ mental health were put into consideration before findings were finalized.
The study concluded that out of the population, almost 8% were clinically obese by the age of 14 and over 15% were battling anxiety and lousy mood feeling. Although poverty was said to have played a major role, the team still arrived at a conclusion that linked weight and health problems together. Hardman thus noted that with increasing age, children assume responsibilities associated with social, physiological and psychological processes.
Since the research failed to take to account the fundamental reasons, Hardman cited that they can have one effect or the other.
“Kids with higher BMI are at the risk of weight-related discrimination that can lead to low self-esteem and increased depressive symptoms over time. On the other hand, depression may cause obesity through uncoordinated sleeping patterns, lethargy and increased emotional eating of high-calorie foods.”
A review of the study findings was done by a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, Samantha Heller. Heller links obesity and mental health in kids to many roots. She expanded on the review by saying, “since highly palatable and processed foods encourage consumption, obese kids take less healthy diets that reduce their physical activity.” She also noted that “stigmatization from peers can arise due to children’s vulnerability to these effects because it takes a while for them to discover who they are and where they fit in.”
But these are issues that can be addressed over time; a simple change to their lifestyle can do the magic. This is a cycle that can be checked according to Heller. She said, “children learn by what they see, and they tend to imitate what we do which is why parents and caregivers need to be role models with their dietary patterns and daily physical activities.” This can help boost children’s self-esteem, their gut health and manage weight. Their overall well-being will thus be put in order.
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