Biochemical and hormonal changes in childhood obesity

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The prevalence of chronic or non communicable disease is escalating much more rapidly in developing countries than in industrialized countries. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, by the 2020, non communicable diseases will account for approximately three quarter of all deaths in the developing countries (WHO. Global Strategy for non communicable disease prevention, 1997). In this regard, a potential emerging public health issue for the developing countries may be increasing incidence of childhood obesity with associated complications, which in turn is likely to create public health burden for poorer nations in the near future (Freedman et al, 2001). Lower to middle income nations face the double burden of having both malnourished and over nourished population, with most overweight and obese children being concentrated in urban areas. Rapid urbanization is associated with unhealthy lifestyle or “New World Syndrome”. In addition, in such communities, childhood obesity is still considered a sign of healthiness and high social class.

There is no universal consensus on a cut off points for defining overweight and obesity in children and adolescents, usually, for clinical practice and epidemiological studies, child overweight and obesity are assessed by means of indicators based on weight and height measurements, such as weight for height measures or body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m2))(WHO. Report series no.847, 1995).The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines obese as being at or above 95th percentile of body mass index for age (Kuczmarsk RJ et al, 2000).

History of obesity is both interesting and gives details of its progression. Obesity is an age-old health condition. Through out the history of obesity, its reputation varies from appreciation and opposite among cultures and in time. Ancient Egyptians are said to consider obesity as disease. Perhaps the most famous and earliest evidence of obesity is the Venus figurines, Statuettes of an obese female torso that probably had a major role in rituals. Ancient China has also been aware of obesity and dangers that come with it. They always were a believer of prevention as a key to longevity. The Aztecs believed that obesity was supernatural, an affliction of the gods. Hippocrates, the father of medicines was aware of sudden deaths being more common among obese men than lean ones as stated in his writings. In certain cultures and areas where food is scarce and poverty is prevalent, is viewed as symbol of wealth and social status. To date, an African tribe purposely plumps up a bride to prepare her for child bearing. Before a wedding can be set, a slim bride is pampered to gain weight until she reaches the suitable weight.

Through out the history of obesity, the public’s view and status of obesity changed considerably in the 1900’s. It was regarded as unfashionable by the French designer, Paul Poi ret who designed skin-revealing clothes for women. About the same time, the incidence of obesity began to increase and become wide spread. Later in 1940s’, Metropolitan life insurance published a chart of ideal weight for various heights.

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