• Nancy Lam

Obesity - Congenital and Acquired Factors

Nancy Lam, Registered Dietitian of MSL Nutritional Diet Centre


Chinese people always think that children need to "grow" so eating more is not a problem. In fact, childhood weight control is vitally important. Whether children are obese or not is affected by both congenital and acquired factors. Congenital factors are the mother’s diet during pregnancy and individual genetic inheritance, and acquired factors are diet and exercise habits.

Obesity is genetically determined?

More and more evidence suggests that genetic inheritance is one of the main causes of obesity. As long as one parent is obese, their children's obesity rate is 40-50%; parents are both obese, their children's obesity rate is 70-80%. Medical experts found that obesity gene (Ob gene) in 1995. It is responsible of a human hormone, Leptin, production by fat cells. Leptin produced enters the circulation to the brain in order to regulate food intake and energy consumption. When leptin concentration in the blood is low, people tend to eat excessively resulting in the accumulation of fat and eventually weight gain or even obesity.

More fat cells makes weight loss more difficult?

The formation of fat cells is closely related to obesity. The larger the number of fat cells, the greater the volume of the cells, the more likely the individual to be obese. Once the fat cell count increases, it is irreversible. The only way to lose weight is to shrink the fat cell volumes. Studies have shown that if the children is obese before the age of 12, their adulthood obesity rate of about 86-88% while that of their normal-weighted counterparts is about 18-42%. Therefore, weight control should start in early childhood. Otherwise, it will take more time and effort to lose weight in the future. Also, obesity-induced high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver, coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases will influence their lifelong quality of life.

Eating out of control?

Common snacks such as sausage, candy, chocolate, dumplings, cookies, etc. are all high-sugar and high-fat. Excessive ingestion of them can definitely cause obesity. For example, eating ten pieces, 40-50 kcal per pieces, of cookies daily can gain a pound of weight after a week and 52 pounds after a year. In fact, parents should choose high-fibre low-calorie snacks for their kids. Fruits, small carrots, and cherry tomatoes are good high-fiber options. As an ice cream replacement, the energy content of low-fat frozen yogurt is one-fold-lower; as a soda replacement, the energy content of high-calcium soy milk is one-fold-lower but it possesses more calcium and less sugar. A good eating habit should be trained up as early as possible in childhood.

According to the statistics published by the Department of Health, there are now more than 21% of students belonging to overweight. Parents should train their children to have a balanced diet and do regular exercise to avoid the increase in fat cells and excessive dieting for weight loss which affects the normal growth and development of their children. In case of any difficulty, you should consult a professional dietitian.

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