Childhood obesity, the blind pandemic

Childhood obesity, the blind pandemic

Table of Contents

  • 1 Being overweight and obese is no longer only a health problem in adults but also in the very young.
    • 1.1 The numbers are not deceiving
    • 1.2 What are the causes?
    • 1.3 And what is the solution?
    • 1.4 How?

Being overweight and obese is no longer just a health problem in adults but also in the smallest.

The numbers are not deceiving

Being overweight and obese is no longer only a health problem in adults but also in the smallest. Considered the pandemic of our time, the numbers are increasing. According to data from the latest National Health Survey, two out of 10 Spanish children are overweight and one in 10 suffers from obesity; that is, 27.8% of minors in our country already have some type of weight problem, which over the years can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among others.

What are the causes?

There are many and very diverse causes, let’s see some of them:

  • The social ignorance about excess weight in children . This is something very worrying, since the population is not aware of the real problem that there is or that their children have and therefore they do not put a remedy, do not seek help or try to correct it. The most common thing is to think that “he is chubby”, “he is strong”, “he is wide-boned” or worst of all, that “he will give the stretch”. It is a disease, a chronic disease, of a disease that if not treated in time, will require lifelong treatment, not to mention the associated pathologies that this entails such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia … So, before believing in any of the Thoughts previously described, I recommend you do a nutritional screening of your little ones, to rule out that they are overweight and in case of having it, you can remedy it as soon as possible, readjusting their diet and lifestyle.


  • The obesogenic environment in which we live. I dedicated a whole post to this topic entitled our obesogenic environment , where you can read more in detail but it is a simple matter of looking around us. XXL sizes in fast food chains, in restaurants … promotions of junk and superfluous food such as pastries and sweets, highly reduced prices of ultra-processed products, vending machines with only snacks, sugary soft drinks, juices … advertising in all product media insane, even using famous figures or child heroes … And the worst of all is that they not only attack adults but also the little ones, putting their favorite drawings and heroes in all kinds of inappropriate and unhealthy products.
    Although the problem is not that these products are consumed, since within a healthy diet and lifestyle it can be done in a moderate and occasional way, the problem is that only inputs from these foods reach us and consequently the diet of the little ones ( and ours) ends up based on them.


  • Too much sugar and low-quality fat that is ingested. There are many products and most of them are focused on children with high amounts of sugar, such as certain cookies, breakfast cereals, snacks, juices, yogurts, dairy desserts, drinks … that are the cause that the levels of overweight and obesity do not stop increase, since they do not make a moderate consumption of them, as I just mentioned, but their entire diet is practically based on them. We should control the feeding of the little ones much more and know what we are giving to our children. Intrinsic is the importance of knowing how to read nutritional labeling to find out that we are feeding our children.


  • Lack of physical activity. Children perform less and less physical activity and spend more hours in front of a screen, be it the television, tablet, computer … It must be borne in mind that they already spend more than eight hours sitting in class, plus one or two at home to perform their homework, so that they are later as many in front of a screen. Physical activity should be encouraged, playing sports or simply going to the park to play and run.


  • The current pace of life of adults. It is true that the current pace of life makes it very difficult for us to correct these causes. We tend to be in a hurry, things to do, work, home … We usually go to parents, that is, to the grandparents of the little ones, so that they can help us, pick them up from school, feed them … at dinner time we arrived late and tired, perhaps our children have already had dinner but they are waiting for us awake… Personally I think this is true and difficult to correct but not impossible and it cannot serve as an excuse to feel good. It is vital that children have schedules, habits and a routine. It is very important that they sleep at least 8 hours, even if they mean not seeing them at night. It is essential that they do some extra-school activity or sport that maintains a routine of physical activity (previous point), and it is also very important that they eat as a family and not alone. Family conciliation helps them learn to eat, to feel integrated, to feel like one more and not feel marginalized. Consequently, it is very important that your diet is healthy, free of sugary or alcoholic beverages and based mainly on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes … making a moderate and occasional consumption of processed products.

And what is the solution?

The solution is simple but complex at the same time. It is complex to carry it out for all the causes that I have mentioned. It would simply be:

  • Improve nutrition, but not only that of children, but also that of adults because you already know that children are a reflection of what they see. You know: base your diet on  fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, meat, fish and eggs. And make a moderate and occasional consumption of the rest of foods: cookies, sweets, pastries, sugary soft drinks, snacks …
  • Perform physical activity daily, leaving aside sedentary activities such as watching television, playing video games, surfing the Internet …


Promoting healthy lifestyle habits in children and adults.

Initiatives such as the one carried out in 2005, when the Federation of Food and Beverage Industries drew up the PAOS  Code, the Self-Regulation Code for Food Advertising . The PAOS Code is nothing more than a set of rules where a series of rules are established that serve as a guide for all those companies adhered to in the development, execution and dissemination of their advertising messages when they are intended for children under twelve years of age.

At the beginning of 2013 the new PAOS Code came into force   by which both the Ministry of Health and the Spanish Food Safety Agency signed agreements with different associations related to advertising, distribution, hospitality and catering, taking a step ahead and regulating the advertising of food and beverages aimed at children and young people up to fifteen years of age, in order to prevent obesity and promote healthy habits.

Another initiative that also seems relevant to me is the  NAOS Strategy (Nutrition, Physical Activity and Prevention of Obesity). Since its launch in 2005, the NAOS Strategy has developed actions or interventions, based on scientific evidence and in all areas of society (family, educational, business, health, work, community) that promote and facilitate options for a varied and balanced diet and the practice of physical activity, as well as the most appropriate information to help consumers make healthier decisions and choices in environments that allow them to adopt healthier and more active lifestyles. For this, the NAOS Strategy encourages the involvement, synergy and collaboration of all sectors and agents of society, both public (Autonomous Communities, municipalities, other ministries) and private (food and beverage industry, scientific societies, consumer organizations,

The latest and most recent is the one that Nestlé has launched together with the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona. This educational program called  Nutriplato  shows in a graphic and attractive way the proportion of vegetables (50%); meat, fish, eggs and / or legumes (25%); and whole grains and / or tubers (25%) to be consumed as little as possible at each intake (although it is also applicable to adults or at least it should be). The guide that accompanies the dish, aims to guide parents on the amounts to be taken by the child depending on age and offer practical ideas with varied recipes.



Other options to encourage these healthy habits could be:

  • Encourage breastfeeding.
  • Do not force children to eat, including school cafeterias.
  • Introduce nutritional education in schools and institutes, either with talks or with a subject.
  • Regulate legislation regarding advertising directed at children.
  • Encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, promoting them in supermarkets, advertising in different media …
  • Create more green spaces and parks, so they can run and play safely.
  • From the town halls, carry out competitions or activities that promote physical activity and an active life.
  • Enable more bike lanes.
  • Carry out cooking workshops and healthy food tasting in schools, institutes, public health centers, civic centers …
  • Make available to the citizen an information point on healthy eating, either in the town hall, primary care centers, hospitals, pharmacies …
  • Add fruits, nuts, and water to vending machines.
  • Create free workshops on healthy eating

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