Oftentimes, parents relate weight gain in their children to good living which unknowingly to them is either healthy or unhealthy. They are usually oblivious of this fact due to ignorance of the healthy level of weight gain. On most occasions, children with uncontrolled weight gain are at risk of obesity and complications that come with it which usually becomes visible as they grow. Normally, every child has a weight range which can be known by usage of either the growth chart or the body mass index (BMI).
The body mass index (BMI) reflects the weight status of a child according to their height. Using BMI, the weight of a child is divided in kilograms (kg) based on the square of their height in meters. For example, the BMI of a 7-year-old 25kg child who is 1.2m tall can be calculated as approximately 17kg/m2. The value from this calculation can therefore be compared to the BMIs of children of same sex and age to derive their own BMI percentile. With the BMI percentile, children can be grouped into weight categories.
A child is obese when his/her BMI is above the 95th percentile.
CDC affirms that any child who has a BMI of less than the 5th percentile is underweight; children whose BMI fall between the 5th and 85th percentile have healthy weight; a child is considered overweight when his/her BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentile; while a child is obese when his/her BMI is above the 95th percentile. Uniformity of the BMI is not assured as it cuts across different ages and gender as the body weight of children varies according to their sex and gender as they grow.
BMI of a child is known as BMI-for-age which corresponds to the BMIs of any other child in the same age and gender group; however, it does not reveal all about weight gain and body fat. For instance, athletic children who have short statures and heavy muscular builds have a high tendency of having a high BMI-for-age that is not as a result of obesity or excess fat. Regardless, the practical index for the measurement of body fat is the BMI-for-age.
1 child in 100 under 5 Nigerian children are obese – UNICEF.
In addition, parents are advised to help their children work towards having a BMI-for-age that is between the 5th and 85th percentile because any child whose weight falls below the 5th percentile is said to either be acquiring less energy or to be burning more energy than is taken in which is a symptom of nutritional deficiency. In contrast, consumption of more calories than a child burn would enable a positive energy balance that could make the child’s weight rise above the 85th percentile.
According to a 2018 UNICEF estimation, 1 child in 100 under 5 Nigerian children are overweight. A report on another recent study states that about 7 percent of Nigerian schoolchildren from age 5 to 13 are obese; however, there is currently no specific national data that gives a comprehensive estimation of childhood obesity in Nigeria. Increase in obesity is closely linked to sleep patterns, a child’s diet and level of physical activity, as stated by doctors and nutritionists.
Obesity causes cancer, hypertension, diabetes and arthritis.
UNICEF reports that continuous diets of ultra-processed foods like cakes and confectioneries, noodles, juice, biscuits and beverages can make a child obese and overweight. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, children who do not play well enough or sleep for less than 9 to 13 hours per day would likely become obese. An obese child is likewise likely to grow into an obese adult which makes them at risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and cancer. Eating the right kinds of food, getting enough sleep and engaging in exercise and sports can help a child maintain a healthy weight.
Mayo Clinic: Website