YOUNG FATTIES ON RISE
By BIANCA CLARE
Coffs Harbour youngsters were celebrating Children's Week yesterday but for some there is little to be happy about
CHILDREN as young as five are being treated for obesity in Coffs Harbour.
Local accredited practising dietitian (APD) Louise Williams said parents have recently come to her seeking dietary advice for their young children who, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, are overweight or obese.
Using this index, a 12-year-old girl who is 150cm tall and weighs 60kg would be considered overweight.
A three-year-old boy who is 60cm talls and weighs 10kg would be classed as obese.
In 2005, more than 280,000 young Australians aged between five and 19 were considered to be obese.
Ms Williams said increases in sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing video games, a decrease in physical activity, and an increase in the consumption of high- fat foods were likely to be high among the causes of the current epidemic.
"Children who are overweight or obese are more likely in the short-term to develop high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, high cholesterol and certain orthopaedic problems than children of normal weight and more likely in the longer term to develop cardiovascular disease," she said.
"They're also at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The total health costs arising from type 2 diabetes caused by obesity were $116.1 million in 2005.
Doctor Rick van der Zwan, from the psychologist department at Southern Cross University, said children who are overweight or obese are also at risk of developing poor self-esteem, negative self image, depression and social difficulties.
He said parents needed to take responsibility for their children's eating habits.
"Kids learn by modelling their parents," Dr van der Zwan said.
"The problem in today's society is that we are wealthier than 20 years ago but time poorer.
"This means that we are eating way too much takeaway food that is usually sky high in fat and sugar and low in effort.
"Kiddies then form the belief that when it comes to food it's okay to take short cuts.
"Instead of helping make a salad for lunch they'll get mum or dad to microwave a pizza."
Early childhood development officer Jo Clarke said when addressing childhood obesity parents should focus on changing the family's physical activity and eating habits.
"Parents need to provide a safe environment for children and their friends to engage in active play," she said.
"It's also important to avoid using snacks as a reward."