Obesity in children has been found to be the cause of health problems in the future if not watched closely.
Experts say that almost 90 per cent of people living with type 2 diabetes are overweight or suffer from obesity. This, they say, is due to the fact that they have added pressure on their body’s ability to use insulin to properly control blood sugar levels, and are therefore more likely to develop diabetes.
According to Crispin Gishoma, the director of Rwanda Diabetic Association, obesity is one of the complications they condemn daily while sensitising the public about diabetes, especially in children.
“Most kids we find with diabetes are obese or over weight. Therefore, this is one of the things we advise care givers and parents to look out for so as to keep healthy weight for children and avoid further sicknesses,” says Gishoma.
Gishoma says that parents have a big role to play in reducing the rate of weight gain in their children while allowing normal growth and development.
However, the medic points out that, unless the current lifestyle that has been adopted by most urban people changes, the numbers of obese children might keep increasing in the country.
He adds that people no longer want to eat fresh foods which are readily available in our markets but want processed foods.
This, in the long run, he says, will cause obesity in children since they include a lot of added preservation substances.
“Besides that, most households do not cook food in a healthy manner. Food is overly spiced, forgetting that these spices are unhealthy. It is time parents educated themselves as well as their maids on eating healthy,” he says.
Dr Eric Musengimana, a nutritionist at Diet Therapy Company in Remera, says that children should be taught good eating habits but this has to start with parents knowing what is healthy and unhealthy for their children.
Training children to eat at certain times, how much and what to eat will develop a good eating habit in a child’s life as they grow. This, Musengimana says, will help them grow with their health as their responsibility and can pass on the trend to another generation.
Musengimana says that children should get used to eating vegetables, fruits and low-fat or non-fat milk products so as to maintain a good weight.
There should be limited sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar and saturated fat, not forgetting to encourage children to drink lots of water,” he says.
Musengimana notes that as family food is being cooked, favourite dishes should be made healthier and these may include lean meat, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for proteins.
Gishoma said that it is unfair for children to be taken out only on Sundays for outdoor games, saying that parents should give their children more time to play with their peers outside home as this will keep the child social and active.
He condemns the issue of keeping children enclosed inside gates saying that at the end of the day, children are left with no openness to engage in different exercises, hence the need to watch television all day which leads to obesity.
He calls upon schools to increase days for sports as well. This, he says, will enable children to learn the importance of physical activities in their life.