Nutrition and children

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In the UK alone, unhealthy eating and poor nutrition are on the rise with more than 50% of men and woman overweight due to malnutrition, which means unbalanced or disordered eating patterns. But does this mean that our children will also suffer from food and dietary problems? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one-third of children were overweight or obese, but what does being overweight for a child actually mean?

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

So what contributes to an unhealthy diet? Let’s take a look at some examples:

Gluten Grains
Unsaturated fats
Seed and Vegetable oils
Artificial Sweeteners
Foods that are highly processed

Although this is not a full list of unhealthy options, we are going to cover the common causes and immediate or long-term health effects that are associated with unhealthy eating or poor nutrition.

So let’s take a look at the immediate health effects first:

First of all, obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Secondly, obese children are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes, and lastly, children who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, social and psychological problems and poor self-esteem.

Now that you have learnt what immediate effects this can cause, let’s take a look at the long-term effects this places on the child’s health:

Children who are obese are likely to be overweight as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults. And last but not least, overweight and obesity will lead to increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, ovary, cervix, and prostate.

We have identified what causes a bad diet, obesity and unhealthy eating, but what nutrition’s are available for children to maintain a nutritional diet.

Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

The dietary and physical activity behaviours of children are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, child care settings, communities, faith-based institutions, government agencies, medical care providers and the food and beverage industries.

Schools also play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviours. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviours.

So what have you learnt so far? You have learnt about bad nutrition’s, the risk factors associated with unhealthy eating for children and healthy lifestyles. But what can we learn about malnutrition and healthy nutritious foods that our schools, workplace and communities can promote for children today and for the future?

There are concerns for malnutrition in the UK and of course throughout the world, although, you might be surprised to know that this includes undeveloped countries. Malnutrition can take the form of ‘under-nutrition’ or ‘overnutrition’.