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Abnormal Weight Gain in Children

by Nadia Haris , studioD

If you are concerned about your child's abnormal weight gain, you have good reason to prevent it as early as possible. Childhood obesity is an alarming problem that now affects almost 17 percent of American children, according to the Harvard Gazette, which also reports that almost one in five children will be overweight by the age of 6. This health problem can begin early in life; almost half of obese children showed abnormal weight gain by the age of 2 years. Understanding why your child is gaining excess weight is important to prevent obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

Fast Food Culture

Your child is faced with a staggering number of unhealthy food choices in the typical American diet. Even his favorite breakfast cereal with the innocent cartoon character on the box contains high amounts of hidden sugar. The Harvard Gazette reports that the excessive amounts of processed foods, junk food and sugar-sweetened drinks are major contributors to excess weight and obesity in children. The Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated this in a study that found that for every serving of soda or other sugar-rich beverage a child drinks, his risk for obesity increases by 1.6 times. The research also showed that overweight teenagers ate more fast foods such as burgers and super-sized sodas than leaner teens, putting them at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Risks at Birth

Breast-feeding is promoted as healthier for your infant's growth and development; it may also help reduce your child's risk of being obese, according to a 2003 study published in the "British Medical Journal." Breast-fed infants may learn to self-regulate how much they eat, by responding to hunger rather than appetite cues. Additionally, research published in the "Archives of Disease in Childhood" reported that children delivered by caesarean section may be at increased risk of childhood obesity. It's unknown exactly why this occurs but it may be because children born by caesarean have different types of bacteria in their gut that impact how food is digested and how it affects weight gain.

Genetic Causes

The lottery of life that gives you your genes may also be responsible for your child's weight gain or obesity. Research published in the "International Journal of Pediatrics" found that basal metabolic rate, BMR, is inherited and can affect how many calories you burn with exercise and how much weight gain you have. Obese teenagers typically have lower than normal resting metabolic rate as children, before gaining weight. The Harvard Gazette mentioned a study carried out at Columbia University that concluded that body-mass index and weight gain is 80 percent due to your genes. In this study, doctors studied 66 sets of twins, aged three to 17 and found that in each pair, both children had similar percentages of body fat.

Sleep and Weight Gain

Sleep patterns can affect weight gain in both children and adults. The MayoClinic.com reports that there may be a link between how much you sleep and your body fat; sleeping less than five hours or more than nine hours a night can increase the risk of weight gain. A simple explanation for this is that a lack of sleep -- or too much of it -- zaps your energy levels, leading to less physical exercise and more weight gain. Sleep patterns may also affect hormones called ghrelin and leptin that increase appetite, causing excess hunger and overeating.

About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.

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