Childhood Obesity – What We Can Do


Childhood Obesity – What We Can Do

Nestlé Middle East recently brought together scientific speakers from around the globe, who shed some light on childhood nutritional challenges and obesity, in addition to interventions to address these challenges. The International Growth and Development Conference 2017 also included sharing the science-based evidence built from the Nestlé Ajyal Salima program.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), over 36 percent of children in the UAE are obese. We do believe that smallest of actions can bring a much greater change than the boldest of intentions. In line with our thoughts, we had a short Q & A with Patricia El Chammas, United for Healthier Kids Manager, Nestlé Middle East about the growing concerns of childhood obesity, growth & development in Children in these times, and here’s what the speaker had to highlight.

Q.1. How can peers especially fellow children help in the issue of childhood obesity?

Fellow children and their parents play an important role in changing the face of childhood obesity. By simply inviting fellow children to play and be active outdoors, by sharing water and healthy snacks, by motivating others through their own healthy habits and lifestyle are just a few simple actions that can bring a visible change.

Q.2. What questions should parents be asking their pediatrician about their kids’ weight? How much chubby is good chubby?

It is a good thing to do, i.e. asking all your questions even the one’s that sound like common sensical or stupid one’s from the pediatrician as well as from themselves time to time even when they’re not on a regular pediatrician visit. A few questions that are suggestive are:

• Is my child’s weight appropriate to his age and height?
• What is the right diet, or eating habits that I need to follow, for my child?
• What are musts in my child’s diet?
• How many cups of milk does my child need per day?
• How many cups of water does my child need per day?
• What are good sources of protein? And how much protein does he/she need per day?

If you kid is slightly on the chubby side, you should ask these questions from the pediatrician, they’ll be able to assess the child’s growth and help you understand the right courses of action in terms of diet & exercise for your child.

Q.3. What is the role played by schools in shaping the food choices made by children and parents?

Kids these days are influenced by the many things they learn at school and schools should act as a reference for kids, in helping them and educating them about proper nutrition, healthy eating habits, and lifestyle, as well as provide healthy balanced options for them.

Q.4. What government can do or is doing to keep a check on what kids eat at school?

Governments and ministries are working closely with public schools to help them adopt health and nutrition programs at school, to educate kids and highlight to parents the importance of adopting healthy nutrition and lifestyle. They also play a key role to ensure the School Canteens and/or shops follow the same by replacing all their unhealthy options with healthy snacks, meals, drinks, hence acting as a role model.

Q.5. Looking at chubby kids, a lot of times people think and say “it’s just baby fat, children will outgrow that with age” Is this the right way of thinkingCan Childhood obesity result in adulthood obesity, even if treated in childhood? 

Studies have shown that childhood obesity leads to adult Obesity
i. 30% of obese preschoolers
ii. 40% of obese school children
iii. 80% of obese adolescents
→ become obese Adults (ref: Guo and Chumlea, 1999)
Hence children should be within the appropriate weight range per age to ensure the long-term health and wellness.

Q.6. What are the myths around childhood obesity?

The few myths that you’ll commonly hear around you are:
• That “Chubby is healthy”
• They will grow tall
• To let them eat anytime during the day

Q.7. What are the key indicators of childhood obesity?

There are several tools that are used to determine if the child is at risk for obesity, including:
i. Plotting the child’s Body Mass Index yearly to see if there’s a sudden increase
ii. Identifying babies who gain weight too rapidly in infancy; studies show that these babies are at risk for becoming overweight as they get older
iii. Identifying a family history of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, sleep apnea and early heart attack: these factors can also put a child at increased risk for obesity and associated medical complications

Q.8. Is Childhood Obesity genetic?

Science shows that genetics plays a role in obesity. However, genes do not always predict future health. Genes and behavior may both be needed for a person to be overweight. The genes involved are probably genes that interact with environmental factors such as abundant food supply or little or no physical activity which increases the risk of obesity.

Q.9. Any correlation between Gestational Diabetes & Childhood Obesity?

Treating gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) doesn’t just help the mother’s health, it can also reduce the baby’s chances of being obese later in life. Studies have found that if gestational diabetes is untreated, a child’s risk of becoming obese by ages 5 to 7 nearly doubles and he’s more likely to be overweight as an adult and develop obesity-related diabetes. But when gestational diabetes is treated the baby’s obesity risk is completely reversed.

So after this enlightening interview with Patricia, we surely aren’t adding more cups of milk for our kids without actually knowing how much is good for them on a daily basis from our Pediatrician & Nutritionist.

Brief about the speaker:

Patricia El Chammas on Childhood Obesity

Patricia El Chammas

Patricia El Chammas is a nutritionist as well as the Manager for United for Healthier Kids at Nestlé Middle East, which owns and operates eighteen factories. Nestlé Middle East provides direct employment to over 11,000 people and indirect employment to several thousand more.

Patricia joined Nestlé in 2007 as an International Marketing and Sales Trainee for Nestlé Health Sciences at the Nestlé Headquarters Switzerland and Nestlé France. She then moved to Nestlé Infant Nutrition Middle East and worked on renowned brands such as NAN, CERELAC and NIDO GUMs.

Prior to become the Manager for United for Healthier Kids, Patricia held the position of Senior Brand Manager while handling NIDO Growing Up Milks – GUMs up until July 2016 and then moved to the Communications and Marketing department at Nestle Middle East, overlooking Nestlé’s movement, United for Healthier Kids, which is a region-wide movement to help parents raise healthier & happier kids and encourages healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle habits among children.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree BSc. in Nutrition and Dietetics from the American University of Beirut and has also completed her Masters of Science in Food Management from the University of Surrey, UK.



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