Obesity could affect children’s studies, scores
A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating patterns are to blame for obesity among teenagers in the Sultanate, according to nutrition experts. They warned such children would score low in subjects like math. In due course, their academic performance will decline drastically and they might even drop out of school.
Citing the recent Nutrition Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, medics expressed concern over rise in the number of overweight and obese people, especially among teenagers.
Obese and overweight children are at risk for several medical issues, including diabetes, heart attack and certain types of cancers.
“Being overweight or obese has to do with lifestyle if it’s not genetical. It will have implications on a student’s life from as early as kindergarten days,” says internal medicine specialist Dr Dilip Singhvi.
“Studies have revealed teenagers’ university education as well as career prospects may be affected. Obese girls are found to score lower marks than other students, which will take a toll on their personality in the future,” he said.
According to ENT specialist Dr Rohil Raghavan, obesity in children is on the rise not only due to the change in food habits, but also due to lack of physical activity.
“Walking to and from school, after-school outdoor activities or reading of books, sadly, seem to be a thing of the past,” he said.
A report published in medical journal Lancet highlights a worrying trend among young Omani women. The percentage of obesity among young women is higher at 42.3 as against 24.5 for young men, which puts the Sultanate seventh on the list of nations with a higher prevalence of obesity in women under 20 years.
“Certainly, obese kids are prone to depression, which will affect their studies,” said specialist physician Dr Thashli Thankachan. He attributes it partly to eating habits and partly to lack of exercise.
Medical professionals in the country have called for concerted action to inculcate a healthier lifestyle in women.
“The adolescent years are important years for the development of an individual. A healthy, nutritious diet is required for development of organs, bones and the mind,”
said Dr Singhvi.
This, he said, is more important during the studying years in school. “But increasing weight and obesity impairs the physical and mental abilities to perform.”
“Obesity among teenagers has been on the rise among those under 20 years of age and it has a bearing on their academic performance,” said Dr Nigel Kuriakose of SQU Hospital.
“Nearly 54 per cent of Arab population is under the age of 25 years. With the high prevalence of obesity in this age group, the future projection of obesity co-morbidities might reach epidemic levels with serious health, economic and academic consequences,” says Dr Kuriakose. Being obese or overweight could lead to serious consequences, he warned. It might cause deep vein thrombosis, Type 2 diabetes, bone problems, besides increased chances of heart attacks, stroke, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, cancer, hernia, arthritis, to name a few.
Distracted study pattern is one among them.
Studies have revealed an increasing number of women are falling under the overweight and obese category. The proportion of adults with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25kg per metre cube or greater (over 30 is Class 1 obesity, according to WHO) increased from 28.8 per cent to 36.9 per cent in men, and from 29.8 per cent to 38 per cent in women, irrespective of their age.
Dr Rajyashree N Kutty, a specialist surgeon, goes one step further, pointing at the breastfeeding habits of new mothers.
“Mothers do not want to breastfeed their babies. Instead, they give them supplements which increase horizontal growth than healthy growth.”
Apart from eating habits and sedentary lifestyle, “exam-related stress eating” is overlooked factor, according to medics.
They say stress hormones can result in children gaining weight in no time.
“A matured vision and not pressuring children during studies are very important,” said a psychiatrist with a private hospital.
“Mental state and physical appearance are closely connected.”
Lancet study further says developing countries are paying the price for obesity, which is on the rise among children and adolescents.
In these countries, the prevalence of overweight has jumped from 8.1 per cent to 12.9 per cent for boys and 8.4 per cent to 13.4 per cent in girls.
Compared with the developed countries, the issue has been more worrisome among women in developing nations.
Dr Singhvi has also urged parents to monitor their children’s diet and restrict their junk food intake.