Do you still think a fat baby or toddler is cute? According to new research that cuteness is setting them up for an unhealthy adulthood, and that risk starts by age two. In fact, the paper suggests that kids as young as two years old are showing signs of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including hypertension, elevated levels of triglycerides, high blood sugar levels, fat around the abdomen, low levels of HDL. Metabolic syndrome is associated with significant risk of heart disease, diabetes and having a stroke. Overweight children can become insulin resistant as early as age six. One of the first signs you might see is acanthosis nigricans, velvety patches of dark brown skin in the folds and creases of a child's neck and arms. That's not "dirt" you are seeing but rather a body phenomenon that occurs only in kids who are beginning to develop insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
Another serious problem associated with childhood diabetes is kidney disease later in life, and the longer a person has diabetes, especially poorly-controlled diabetes, the more likely the person is at risk of chronic kidney disease. Fat children also have a higher risk of developing gallstones, they have more severe forms of asthma and the excess fat can cause chronic inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is associated with heart disease and cancer. Significantly overweight children also develop sleep apnea, with snoring and periods of limited oxygenation. This is an extremely worrisome condition since periods of poor or no oxygenation can cumulatively put a person at risk of death. Sleep apnea can also mean poor quality sleep which translates to lack of concentration in school.
Remember that just carrying excess weight around can cause joint pain, particularly in the hips, knees and ankles. It can also put kids at higher risk of joint damage where the hip joint inserts at the head of the femur, meaning painful surgical correction or even a hip replacement down the road. Overweight kids typically grow taller earlier and experience puberty earlier. From an emotional perspective, these kids are at higher risk of experiencing bullying or poor self esteem because they look different or cannot participate well in athletics and other physical activities. They stand out and that makes them a target.
So if you are thinking about getting pregnant, try to learn as much as you can about basic nutrition. If you are overweight, ask for help from your doctor. Overweight pregnant women are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and, as a consequence, large babies. If you think your very young child is possibly overweight, seek help from your pediatrician and a dietician or nutritionist. Remember that the whole family may need a nutrition overhaul, whether or not weight is an issue for each member. And doing a lifestyle change as a family sets everyone up for better health!!
Published On: November 15, 2011