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Parental considerations for eliminating infant and childhood obesity

Friday, August 10, 2012 by: Dr. Daniel Zagst
Tags: childhood obesity, parenting, advice

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(NaturalNews) Obesity is an epidemic in the United States. Advances in technology and cheap, empty calories have created a lazy and fat population. New generations of children are getting thrown into this culture and are turning up with a higher incidence of diseases. Estimates state up to one-fifth of the global infant population is obese. Children under the age of five should not be battling obesity, nor can such a statistic be blamed on schools or any other source besides the caretakers. There is strong evidence to suggest childhood obesity as a direct indicator of adulthood obesity. Therefore, healthy habits and lifestyle changes should be instilled at birth to project health throughout a child's life, to promote a disease-free future. The following are some habits that can be modified at an early age to "protect" against obesity. Little changes make a big difference!

Breastfeeding

Infants who are exclusively breastfed are less likely to develop obesity compared to those fed formula, or a formula/breast milk combination. Most importantly, avoiding formula for the first six months of infancy has the greatest impact. Aside from the additional immune and neurological benefits breast milk provides, the link to lower rates of obesity are unclear. Regardless, breast milk is a small but important factor to improve a newborn's health and promote healthy weight gain.

Introduction to solid foods

The later a child is introduced to food other than breast milk, the better. When food is introduced before the age of four to six months, there is an associated increase in weight gain and fat deposition. Rapid weight gain during infancy has a strong correlation with obesity during adolescence. Children should be introduced to solid foods when they reach the age of six months, unless developmental demands suggest earlier, but never before four months.

When and what to eat

Kids who eat more fruits and vegetables end up eating less food while maintaining a healthier weight. Unfortunately, many kids do not eat a single serving of vegetables per day. Parents should recognize when their child is hungry and not use food as a method to calm/sooth a child. This can quickly spiral out of control and turn in to a child that overeats or throws tantrums for food. By putting "control" over food, a child associates food with reward or poor behavior that can trigger overeating. Good habits instilled at a young age carry over to adolescence, and they will eat when they are hungry, not just to "feel good."

Entertainment

TV, computers, video games and other electronic devices should be limited. Children under the age of two should not be exposed to TV at all. The sedentary nature of watching TV leads to fat deposition and obesity. Children spending time with parents who consume salty snacks while watching TV are likely to adopt the same behavior. TV should be a privilege and limited to one to two hours per day if any at all.

Exercise

Make sure a developing child gets plenty of active play time and exercise. This is important for developing strong muscles and bones and social interaction. Parks, gyms, and playgrounds are great resources for kids to play in a safe and social environment while the parents can relax and observe from a distance. Shoot for an hour of play-per-day, with a minimum of 20 minutes.
Remember, it's up to the parents to be good role models and guide a child from birth to adulthood towards a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobes/2012/123023/ref/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19619261
http://www.hawaii.edu
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org
http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/6/1/93/

About the author:
Dr. Daniel Zagst is a chiropractic physician at Advanced Health & Chiropractic in Mooresville, NC. He has a BS in Professional Studies of Adjunctive Therapies, Doctorate of Chiropractic from NYCC, and an Advanced Certificate in Sport Science and Human Performance. Find out more at www.dzchiro.com

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