Childhood Obesity in Singapore | Kids Clinic Singapore

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Dr Dave Ong: 26 July

Last updated: 1 July

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Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity in Singapore

Childhood obesity has been a rising problem worldwide over the past few decades including Singapore. Ministry of Health of Singapore (MOH) did a study in 2017 and one of the key findings was 13% of children in mainstream schools are overweight.

Not all children who are overweight stay overweight even when they are adults. However, childhood obesity is related to being overweight or obesity in adulthood 1.
Obesity increases the risk of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, among others.

Why Should I Be Worried About My Child’s Weight?

  • Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, early heart diseases, fatty liver diseases and even bone problems.
  • If your child is overweight or obese, they would develop poor sleep habits resulting in them being drowsy during the day and being unable to concentrate at school, affecting their learning abilities.
  • Your child might be bullied in school leading to psychological issues such as low self-esteem, poor body image and depression.

Does Overweight = Obese?

Being overweight is different from obesity. Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to differentiate between being overweight or obese. As BMI changes with age, using BMI-for-age percentile charts for boys and girls (6-18 years old) is the most useful.

The definitions are as follows:

Classification Percentile on BMI-for-age Chart
Acceptable weight
5th to <90th percentile
Overweight
90th to 97th percentile
Severely overweight (obesity)
≥ 97th percentile

If your child is obese, you should visit your doctor to check for obesity-related conditions and complications. This is very important especially if risk factors are already present.

What Can I Do If My Child Is Overweight or Obese?

One of the most common causes of children being overweight or obese is due to overeating and an inactive lifestyle. However, by following these tips, you can make a difference in your child’s future.

1) Choose Food Wisely.

It is important to understand and monitor what your child is eating both at school and at home.
For example, you should advise your children to opt for foods with less oil or sauces and eat more vegetables and fruits when they are at school.

 

The same should apply for home as well. You can implement this by preparing food with less fat content, incorporating more vegetables in the dishes you make and using less oil/salt in your cooking.

2) Keep to Child-sized Portions.

Other than eating the right types of food, ensure that your child is not taking more than 1 serving of food during mealtimes.

3) Encourage Exercise.

You should plan regular physical activities that your child enjoys instead of focusing on activities focused on weight loss 2 & 3.

  • Your child should take part in physical activities at least 3 times a week for an hour.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Choose physical activities that your child enjoys and plan a simple schedule with them.
  • You should take part in the activities with your child like going on a walk or going for a swim to show them your support.

 

Losing weight might not be easy, but it can be done. Old habits can be hard to break initially but the key is to take small and consistent steps. Furthermore, you should also provide moral support for your child and constantly encourage them when you see that they are struggling.

A good goal to being with is maintaining their current weight or a slow weight loss. This will allow a gradual decrease in BMI for adolescents and children who are obese.

Finally, you should work closely with your paediatrician to ensure any weight loss is taking place safely and that your child is still getting the essential nutrients he/she needs.

1. Maffeis C, Moghetti P, Grezzani A, Clementi M, Gaudino R, Tato L. Insulin resistance and the persistence of obesity from childhood into adulthood. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(1):71-6.

2. Baker JL, Farpour-Lambert NJ, Nowicka P, Pietrobelli A, Weiss R. Evaluation of the overweight/obese child–practical tips for the primary health care provider: recommendations from the Childhood Obesity Task Force of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. Obes Facts. 2010;3(2):131-7.

3. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Management of Obesity. A National Clinical Guideline. 2010

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