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Overweight children are less healthy

It is not news that the number of overweight children is increasing. What is news is that overweight children appear to be less healthy. That is the conclusion that Marga Bekkers draws from her PhD research at the University of Utrecht. The number of overweight children has increased alarmingly in recent years. This is no longer news. The figures about this are flying around our heads. However, data on what being too fat means for a child’s health is less clear. This is changing thanks to PhD research by Marga Bekkers of the RIVM. She obtained her PhD on this subject at the University of Utrecht.

Higher blood pressure, worse cholesterol levels

Twelve-year-old children who are overweight already have higher blood pressure and less favorable cholesterol levels in their blood than children with a normal weight. Bekkers does not rush into her conclusion overnight. The basis of her research is the analysis of the health of no fewer than 1,500 children, from a group of almost four thousand children who have been followed since birth. The latter is done in the context of another study, namely the PIAMA study: Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy. This study started in 1996. The figures are consistent with the figures from many other studies on children becoming overweight. More than one in ten, or about eleven percent, of the twelve-year-old children in the study turned out to be overweight. Perhaps even more alarming is that these fat children indeed already have health problems. They have higher blood pressure and less favorable cholesterol levels than children of normal weight. But it has also been shown that these children more often have asthma. The research also draws the conclusion that being overweight at a young age has a negative effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Healthy but too fat?

Bekkers points out that we should not only worry about extremely fat children. She says: The research shows that not only extremely fat children have health problems. Health effects are visible even in relatively healthy, but overweight children.” According to Bekkers, this does not mean that all overweight children should be on medication. But what then?

Prevention is better than…

Bekkers is not alone, but from her research experience her voice has extra value when she points out the importance of preventing obesity in children. But she is more realistic than many other experts. Well, exercising more and eating healthier is the way to give children a better chance of good health. But we really have to remember that such a lifestyle change is difficult for everyone, including children. Other research also shows that a monkey suit has the best chance of preventing obesity in the long term, in all possible areas and by all involved – including schools, neighborhoods and municipalities.

BMI is a good measurement method

Bekkers’ research also shows that measuring waist circumference is also a good measure for determining obesity in children. Measuring waist circumference is less known than calculating BMI (Body Mass Index), but it does have approximately the same predictive value for blood pressure, cholesterol and lung function.