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Obesity among school children on the rise.

MUSCAT: It was a rare occurrence in the past, however, the current prevalence of obesity among the young generation in Oman indicates that there has been a substantial rise.

Times of Oman spoke to Mostafa Waly, assistant professor of human nutrition, food science and nutrition department, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University, who stressed that more studies on obesity are required and adoption of national programmes of promoting healthy food habits must be implemented.

What is the current prevalence of obesity among children in Oman

Childhood obesity is a major public health problem which is associated with chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. Although the prevalence of childhood obesity in Oman at the national level is not reported, yet two cross sectional studies have recently been conducted in Muscat to assess the obesity prevalence among school children of 6-10 years and the ages of 10-18 years. Multistage stratified random sampling methodology was used. The sampling included different residential areas within Muscat. Height and weight were measured to calculate the body mass index (BMI), and compared to international standards. BMI of value of more than 25.99 is considered to be overweight and 30 is considered to be obese. Overweight and obesity were not recorded among children of the age group 5-10 years. Meanwhile, for the age group 10-18 years, overweight prevalence was 5 per cent and obesity prevalence was 9 per cent.

Is the number of obesity cases on the rise in the Sultanate If so, why rates of obesity in this population group may be rising

We do not have statistics as a base line data/year to compare the degree of rise of obesity. Generally speaking, the rate of obesity among schoolchildren is rising and Oman is not an exception, specially linked to adopting western life style in food choices. There is a need for national surveys to establish a national registry for childhood obesity.

How to deal with obesity rates among children Elaborate more on the role of the school, home and society as a whole.

The school canteens should focus mainly on providing healthy meals which is rich in vegetables and fruits and less in refined sugars and carbohydrates. Carbonated soda beverages and other fructose-containing juices must be restricted. At home, the family must adopt a balanced diet meal planning and restrict snacks, chocolate, chips etc. Most important is to develop self-awareness among children to adopt healthy food habits.

What are the risk factors linked to a child's overweight

There are four major risks factors that are incriminated to be involved in the comorbidity of obesity and overweight, these are: Genetics, lack of physical activity (sedentary life style), high carbohydrate intake and high total energy intake.

What would be the leading cause of obesity among children in today's world

It is a multi-factorial mechanism and it is hard to answer this question, especially as each region of the world is different from the other. Indeed, obesity is a global epidemic.

Would media (e.g. television) contribute to obesity issues

No valid data is available in this regard. The only occasion to link television watching with obesity is through the role of TV's media in advertising empty calories foods with palatability and color attraction. This negatively affects children's food choices during shopping.

Is it true that there is a higher rate of obesity among high-income populations

Most studies have elucidated that children of low socio-economic status had greater occurrence of malnutrition, while those of high socio-economic status had greater risk of developing obesity.

Are there any significant research papers done in Oman in relation to obesity in general and obesity among children in particular

No, with the exception of the study that I have mentioned earlier, which is subjected to bias based on limited sample numbers and choosing of one city (Muscat) only, nothing much has been done. However, there are no available statistics of Oman's situation at the moment. Plus, there are no available statistics saying that a particular region/governorate has more cases of obesity than others.

What can be done to curb this particular problem among children in Oman

Adoption of national programmes of promoting healthy food habits (increase consumption of vegetables and fruits) and physical activities among children are recommended.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Jan 15, 2011
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