Childhood obesity is a growing concern for UAE parents

A blog by Dr. Ashok Lodha

Obesity is defined when a person’s weight is above the top most curve (95th percentile) on the CDC weight chart. Around 23% of UAE children between five and nine years old are obese, and by 2030, the number of obese five-to-nine-year-old children in the UAE is projected to reach 122,929.

Unhealthy eating behaviours which commonly lead to obesity include:

  • An increased intake of junk foods, sugary/sweetened drinks and fats.
  • Lesser consumption of healthier, home-made foods, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Skipping breakfast
  • Prolonged sitting hours and increased screen-time.

Decreased physical activity is also a large contributor to childhood obesity. Children with one parent being obese are three to four times more likely to be obese and when both parents are obese, their children are 10–12 times more likely to be obese.

Obesity is likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems to both children and adults, including heart conditions and stroke, type 2 diabetes, digestive problems, gynaecological problems, sleep apnoea and even osteoarthritis.

Obesity is caused by a symbiotic relationship between one’s genes and their environment; we cannot change our genes, but we can change our environment by adapting a healthy lifestyle that includes changing our eating habits, level of physical activity, and mindset.

Parents are children’s primary role models. They should be physically active and make physical activity seem fun to their children. Ideally, parents should set an example by having less screen time, as children model the behaviour of their parents – this includes not having a TV in the bedroom or watching TV during mealtimes.

If you have questions about how to tackle obesity in your children, it’s not too late to book an appointment with either our Specialist Paediatricians and Clinical Dieticians.