Obesity: Causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

by Johnny Jacks
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight (obese), while 462 million people are underweight, both of which are categorized as forms of malnutrition. It is a common misconception that malnutrition only affects individuals who are underweight, thin, or anorexic. However, the reality is that malnutrition can also occur in cases of obesity. In this article, we delve into the details of this condition, exploring its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies.

Malnutrition is not only associated with reduced body mass, but also with obesity.

Malnutrition is not only associated with reduced body mass, but also with obesity.

Gaining a deeper understanding of obesity and malnutrition

Despite advancements, a significant number of individuals worldwide continue to experience malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes undernutrition as a major public health concern, with 20-60% of hospital admissions being related to malnutrition, including cases of obesity-related malnutrition.

Malnutrition refers to an improper or imbalanced nutritional intake, characterized by inadequate nutrition or impaired absorption of nutrients by the body. This condition can have serious implications for overall health and well-being.

What is obesity undernutrition?

What is obesity undernutrition?

Malnutrition is not solely associated with reduced body mass; it can also manifest in individuals with obesity. Surprisingly, those with excess weight are at risk of experiencing malnutrition. Numerous studies have highlighted that the prevalence of malnutrition among obese individuals surpasses that among individuals of normal weight within the same age and gender groups.

Obesity represents a paradoxical state of malnutrition, wherein individuals consume excessive energy but lack essential micronutrients. Deficiencies or imbalances of these vital trace elements can significantly impact the physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being of the body.

Groups Prone to Obesity and Malnutrition

Children, including infants, are particularly susceptible to the coexistence of obesity and malnutrition. Based on survey findings from the National Institute of Nutrition, it has been revealed that various groups, particularly children, are not meeting the body’s requirements for 20 essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Of particular concern is the alarmingly low levels of vitamin D, with only 17.5% of individuals having adequate levels.

Children, including infants, have the highest rates of obesity and malnutrition.

Children, including infants, have the highest rates of obesity and malnutrition.

Many parents still hold the misconception that malnutrition solely affects thin, sickly children suffering from anorexia. However, on the contrary, children with excess weight are also susceptible to a form of malnutrition known as obesity-type malnutrition. In this condition, children may have an adequate amount of body fat but lack essential micronutrients such as calcium, suffer from anemia, or have a deficiency in vitamin D. These deficiencies stem from an unscientific dietary approach and insufficient nutritional knowledge among many parents.

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Unveiling the 5 Causes of Obesity and Malnutrition

Childhood obesity, in reality, represents a unique form of anorexia that places individuals at a heightened risk of severe underlying malnutrition. Typically, obese children tend to gravitate towards consuming energy-dense foods (high in fat, sugar, protein, and starch), while neglecting foods that are rich in essential micronutrients (such as iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins, and trace minerals). Consequently, this phenomenon manifests as an excess accumulation of energy leading to overweight and obesity, while simultaneously lacking vital nutrients crucial for proper growth and development.

Understanding the causes of obesity in children.

Understanding the causes of obesity in children.

Primary Factors Leading to Undernutrition and Obesity in Children:

  1. Inadequate parental care: Parents often overlook the importance of maintaining a balanced nutrient intake for their children. A common mistake is indulging their children’s preferences without considering the necessity of a diverse and nutritious diet. Neglecting to provide an array of foods can result in simultaneous deficiencies of essential micronutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, and B. Prolonged exposure to this condition can lead to various risks, including stunted growth, weakened immune system, increased susceptibility to diseases, fatigue, sleep disturbances, reduced flexibility, and poor concentration. Failure to promptly detect and address malnutrition and obesity can have unpredictable consequences for children.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle: Children who are not encouraged or provided with opportunities for regular physical exercise are at an increased risk of obesity.
  3. Insufficient Vitamin D intake: Children may experience deficiencies in natural Vitamin D due to inadequate exposure to sunlight.
  4. Infant-related factors: Infants can be affected by both undernutrition and obesity if they do not receive sufficient calcium from breast milk or consume inappropriate formula milk. Premature weaning can also lead to metabolic disorders, hindering the baby’s ability to absorb calcium effectively.
  5. Genetic diseases: In certain cases, children with genetic conditions or neonatal infections, combined with insufficient and untimely nutrition, may experience both malnutrition and obesity.
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10 Warning Signs of Obesity in Children:

Recognizing malnutrition with obesity can be challenging as a child’s outward appearance may appear normal. Therefore, if a child exhibits any of the following symptoms, it is important for parents to seek timely medical examination and treatment at medical centers.

What are the signs of obesity and malnutrition?

What are the signs of obesity and malnutrition?

  1. Disturbed sleep patterns, frequent startle responses, crying, and excessive sweating.
  2. Delayed milestones, such as slow teething, delayed walking, and delayed speech.
  3. Persistent soft fontanelles in newborns that take longer to close.
  4. Presence of generalized edema, giving the child’s body a soft and puffy appearance. Reduced protein and albumin in the blood lead to increased water accumulation in the intercellular space.
  5. Skin pigmentation disorders observed in children.
  6. Manifestations of anemia, including pale skin, pale mucous membranes, and deterioration of skin, hair, and nails.
  7. Rickets caused by a deficiency of vitamin D.
  8. Dry cornea, night blindness, and other symptoms associated with vitamin A deficiency.
  9. Motor and cognitive developmental delays.
  10. Symptoms such as heart failure, fatty liver, and reduced digestion and nutrient absorption.

Malnutrition and obesity can result in numerous dangerous complications for children, including respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular diseases, and liver disorders, significantly impacting their overall quality of life.

Principles of Treating Obesity and Malnutrition:

The diagnosis of obesity malnutrition, characterized by micronutrient deficiencies and inadequate nutrition, often requires a comprehensive nutritional assessment in children. Once the condition is accurately identified, the treatment for children with obesity becomes more manageable. There are three essential principles in the treatment of malnutrition:

Parents should encourage their children to exercise.

Parents should encourage their children to exercise.

  1. Comprehensive Evaluation: Children should undergo thorough examinations to assess their nutritional status. This evaluation helps determine the specific nutrient deficiencies and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
  2. Balanced and Adequate Nutrition: It is crucial to provide children with a well-rounded and sufficient nutritional intake. This involves ensuring they receive the necessary macronutrients, micronutrients, and essential vitamins and minerals for their overall development.
  3. Scientific Energy Consumption: Guiding children to consume and absorb energy in a scientifically appropriate manner is essential. This approach helps support their comprehensive growth and development, ensuring they receive the necessary energy from food sources in a balanced and healthy way.
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By following these principles, healthcare professionals can effectively address obesity malnutrition in children and promote their overall well-being.

Preventing Obesity and Malnutrition in Children:

Malnutrition and obesity can have significant detrimental effects on children, including an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and hindered physical and intellectual development. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to take proactive measures to prevent malnutrition in children right from the start. Similarly, obesity prevention should begin during pregnancy and continue as the child grows. Here are some strategies to prevent obesity and malnutrition:

Weaning too early is a cause of increased risk of obesity in children.

Weaning too early is a cause of increased risk of obesity in children.

  • To effectively prevent and address malnutrition in the form of obesity, it is recommended that parents provide their children with a complete and balanced diet, tailored to their body’s needs, physical condition, and age. Parents should be aware of the required amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in their child’s diet and ensure timely supplementation. It is important to encourage children to drink milk, consume green vegetables and fruits, while limiting the intake of nutritionally poor, high-fat, and energy-dense foods such as processed and fast foods.
  • In addition to a healthy diet, parents should promote regular physical activity and encourage their children to engage in activities such as playing, exercising, dancing, or participating in dance classes.
  • During pregnancy, it is crucial for expectant mothers to ensure they receive adequate nutrition from all essential food groups to support the baby’s development.
  • Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, continuing until the age of two or beyond, as breast milk provides essential nutrients.
  • Introducing solid foods to children should be done at the appropriate age, typically around six months. Early introduction of solids increases the risk of childhood obesity. The weaning diet should include a variety of nutrient-rich food sources to ensure adequate nutrition.
  • To absorb natural vitamin D, it is recommended that children have exposure to sunlight between 7 am and 8 am.

In conclusion, this article has provided parents with a comprehensive understanding of obesity malnutrition, including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. It is our hope that the information presented here will be valuable to parents in establishing a healthy and balanced diet for their children, promoting their optimal growth and development. Remember to visit the Goodheathplan website regularly to access more useful knowledge on family nutrition, and please feel free to share this article if you find it beneficial.

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