Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height.
Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra weight often starts children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
A child’s weight status is determined using an age- and sex-specific percentile for BMI rather than the BMI categories used for adults because children’s body composition varies as they age and varies between boys and girls.
Obesity has been shown to have a substantial negative effect on longevity, reducing life expectancy by up to 20 years. So serious are the potential repercussions for children that a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005 determined that this generation of children may be the first that do not outlive their parents.
World-wide, approximately 43 million children under the age of 5 are obese and 1 in 10 children are over-weight. In Australia, over the decade from 1985 to 1995 the number of obese children more than doubled, and the prevalence of obesity has continued to rise since then. Australia and New Zealand now have amongst the highest rates of childhood obesity in the developed world, with 25% of our children currently overweight or obese.
Causes / Risk factors
- High energy food intake and lack of physical activity
- Dysbiosis in infanthood (may be a result of diet or antibiotic use)
- Chronic otitis media (may increase preferences for sweeter and saltier ‘junk’ foods)
- Childhood stress
- Parental BMI – overweight parents doubles the risk for overweight children (genes and obesegenic environment)
- Maternal smoking during pregnancy
- Gestational Diabetes
- Nutritional deficiency in pregnancy, especially methylating factors, folic acid and vitamin B12
- Low birth weight
- Not breast feeding. Various theories why, but bottle feeding tends to introduce solids earlier.
- Timing of introduction of solids. Higher BMI trend at 10 years of age if solids introduced before 6 months, and higher still at 7years of age if introduced before 15 weeks.
- Pre – and post-natal toxin exposure, such as BPA, organoclorides, dioxins and heavy metals
- Poor sleep
- High TV/technology use
Diet and Lifestyle Considerations for Obesity
Thorough research exists to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of moderate protein, high fat and low carbohydrate diets for overweight and obese children. Such dietary changes produce no adverse outcomes in long term growth or health, which is further highlighted when considering the increasing health risks of being overweight. Furthermore, these dietary modifications have been shown to be the best in regards to both weight management and long term compliance.
Integrative Treatments Overview
In order to obtain optimal results, the patient might consider a holistic approach that integrates several treatments to address biochemical, physiological, energetic, emotional and/or spiritual imbalances. These treatments can include Allopathic Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Biomedicine, Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, Functional Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, Energy Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy, Ayurvedic, muscular-skeletal support, Psychology and more. It’s important that treatments are overseen by experienced and certified practitioners who are able to work in teams (see below for where to find one).
For Treatment options see Treatments menu at mindd.org
Nutritional & Environmental Medicine Overview
Nutritional & Environmental practitioners focus on cellular health by optimising nutrient uptake while minimising toxic exposure. Biomedicine, Functional Medicine and Orthomolecular Medicine are all subsets. The overall goal is to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which are key drivers in chronic modern disease (e.g. asthma is inflammation of the lungs, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, eczema is inflammation of the skin, IBS involves inflammation of the gut and ADHD and Autism include inflammation of the brain). A combined approach of diet, lifestyle and natural therapies supports the body’s innate ability to heal and prevent disease by maintaining homeostasis (balance).
It is recommended that a patient consult a certified practitioner to assess their symptoms and case history and explore their individual need to:
- Screen for food sensitivities and allergies
- Implement dietary intervention geared to the individual (e.g. GAPS, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, FodMAPS, Evolutionary, low oxalate/salicylate, Ketogenic)
- Supplement with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and probiotics
- Improve gastro-intestinal health to support the vagus nerve and brain and immune function
- Support neurotransmitter function
- Supply fat soluble nutrients for brain structure and function
- Reduce toxicity and heavy metal accumulation
- Minimise infections (e.g. bacteria, yeast, virus, parasites) to reduce immune response and nutritional deficiencies that can impact on mental and physical health
- Regulate blood glucose and establish healthy eating habits
- Use energy healing (acupuncture, homeopathy, kinesiology, Emotional Freedom Technique)
Where can I find a certified practitioner?
Finding a well-trained Integrative practitioner requires research. You can reference the lists below for one in your area and should consider checking references and interviewing several before you select one.
The World Anti-Aging Academy of Medicine can help you find Integrative practitioners throughout the world.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging has a directory of doctors, spas, clinics and products that support Integrative treatments for all disease.
The American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) trains practitioners in Complementary and Integrative Medicine.
Generation Rescue has a list of Integrative practitioners who specialise in childhood neurobiological disorders (Autism, ADHD, allergies). If they do not treat adults or your condition, they might be able to refer you to someone in your area who can.
Australia & New Zealand
Mindd Foundation trains Integrative practitioners in Australia and New Zealand and is partnered with the Medical Academy of Paediatric Special Needs (MAPS).
The Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) trains in Australia and New Zealand.
The British Society for Ecological Medicine has a list of practitioners in the UK
Mindd Foundation gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Metagenics in supplying the Definition, Causes and Diet & Lifestyle Considerations for this page.