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Gift your kids a healthy lifestyle

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A diet high in junk food and low in nutrient-dense food has been linked to emotional problems, says Roshan Kore

Refined flour-based desserts, snacks and junk foods make up the top source of calories for kids aged two to 18 years. Similar trends are seen in Indian children, especially in the urban areas. The obesity rate has therefore risen from four to six percent to 10 to 20 percent. The study shows that overweight and obesity rates in children and adolescents are increasing, not just among the higher socio-economic groups but also in the lower income groups where underweight still remains a major concern.

The diet of both the pregnant mother and the child after birth can have an effect on mental health of the child; a diet high in unhealthy junk food and low in nutrient- food is linked to behavioural and emotional problems, including anxiety and depression.

Junk food, obesity and disease risk

Children between the ages group of four to 19 years consuming a diet high in junk food have an increased risk for obesity. The children who ate fast food consumed more calories, more fat, more carbohydrates, more added sugars and more sugar-sweetened beverages than those who did not. Additionally, these children consumed less milk, less fibre and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, both risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, obese kids are at higher risk of prediabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnoea and social and psychological problems. Their obese status can follow them into adulthood, too.

Effect on academic performance

A diet high in junk food can hinder the child’s success in school. Research has found that students who consumed a low-quality diet did worse in their tests.

Mental health

Junk food can affect a child’s physical development in detrimental ways, including unhealthy weight gain, which can result in self-esteem problems. Low self-esteem can lead to consequences like depression. Nutritionists at Mayo Clinic also report eating junk food can potentially cause depression on its own.

Children between six to 16 years consuming too much junk food experience a lot of mood swings and behavioural changes. A nutritious diet is essential to maintain a healthy, hormonal balance which junk food deprives the child of.

Increased blood pressure

The high sodium in junk food increases the blood pressure. This in turn weakens the circulatory system of the body.

Kidney disease

Increased blood pressure affects the kidney’s function.

Diabetes

Colas, sodas and beverages contain a high amount of sugar. The absence of other nutrients in junk food causes adverse effects on the child. High chances of malfunction of insulin secretion and insulin resistance could result in Type 2 Diabetes in children.

Fatigue

Junk food is bereft of protein and carbohydrates which give energy, making the child tired and drained out. As a result, it becomes difficult for your child to perform the daily tasks.

Digestive disorder

Junk food is more processed and has less natural nutrients. It has very little fibre, leading to constipation. Hence there is increased risk of intestinal disorder and colon cancer at a later age in life.

Retarded growth

A growing child needs all the core nutrients required for growth and development along with bone and dental growth. Junk food consumption leads to an early onset of osteoporosis. Excessive sugar could cause tooth decay.

Heart disease

High fat in junk food raises cholesterol levels, deposits it in the channels of the heart, causing heart disease. The chances of a stroke in the later stages of life are high.

Eating junk food and unhealthy eating habits has an adverse effect on the physical and mental health of our children. It is high time we teach our children the joys of a long healthy life against the fickle pleasures from the taste of junk food. A healthy lifestyle is an important gift we can give our children.

Roshan Kore is a senior dietitian with Narayana Health — SRCC Children's Hospital

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