CHILDHOOD OBESITY: WHEN MISSING MEALS IS THE CULPRIT

Often, adults and adolescents seeking to lose weight erroneously deprive themselves of regular eating habits, in other words, they believe skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner will help them in their weight management.  How correct their hypothesis is has been a subject of several studies, therefore this piece will be dedicated to how Meal Skipping habit impact children as regards to the childhood obesity epidemic.

Regular eating habit is classified as consumption of breakfast, lunch, and dinner referred to as scheduled main meals.  Meanwhile, meal skipping is the habit of skipping one or more classes of regular eating habits. 

BENEFITS OF REGULAR MEAL CONSUMPTION IN CHILDREN

Regular meal intake helps in supplying adequate energy intake and nutrients essential for survival and growth; this highlights the importance of regular in overall wellbeing and development of children. 

This is evident in reports correlating regular eating habits with increased academic performance, socializing behavior and better judgment in selecting the right food choices among other benefits expounded in the study conducted by Hye-Young Kim et al., 2005 (https://e-nrp.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4162/nrp.2012.6.4.328).

According to most studies, the most important of all meals is breakfast as this class of meal has been associated with a higher frequency of food intake during the day and facilitating appetite regulation, overall energy balance as reported by Jacqueline B.  Marcus in 2013 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012391882600011X?via%3Dihub).  The author also stated the importance of breakfast in influencing food choices, which play a role in the positive regulation of body fat.  From the stated study, not missing one’s breakfast helps in the prevention of missing lunch or dinner by facilitating one’s desire for lunch and dinner meal, and in the selection of healthy food choices. 

To the study by Hye-Young Kim et al., (https://e-nrp.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4162/nrp.2012.6.4.328) this study further established the correction of Jacqueline B.  Marcus 2013 reports, as the study showed that children who skipped meals exhibit poor judgment in their food choices by selecting unhealthy food when their body demand for the skipped meal in compensation for the energy deficit created from skipping a meal.

DOES MEAL-SKIPPING AFFECT CHILDHOOD OBESITY AND OBESITY-RELATED DISORDERS?

The work of Hye-Young Kim and colleagues (https://e-nrp.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4162/nrp.2012.6.4.328) as stated above showed that skipping meals promotes snacking behavior and selection of unhealthy food of low nutritive value, with concomitant impact on overall energy intake balance, which may be skewed towards net energy gain.

Snacking behavior being the tendency of an individual to consume foods and drinks in between meals, this behavior leaves an individual with excess energy, which is stored as body fat and characteristic of obese appearance with excess body fat as their body drives them to compensate for energy deficit, which results from skipping a scheduled meal.

This is corroborated by the work of Anne I.  Wijtzes in 2016 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.09.039), which reported increase body fat in children who skipped meals between aged 4 to 6 years of age especially with the skipping of breakfast.  Therefore showing a positive association between children skipping meals, snacking behavior and childhood obesity.  The author also inferred that a similar increase in body fat should be expected in children who skipped lunch and dinner respectively.  Gayle Savige et al., 2007 (http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/4/1/36), concluded in their work that the more an individual snack is the higher the chances that they will skip a scheduled meal.  This will lead to a cycle, which in turn leads to excess energy reserve.

A Finish study made by the University of Eastern Finland (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141215084420.htm), report a positive relationship between skipping of main meals and cardio metabolic risk disorders such as the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus among several other disorders.  As stated earlier, the link between cardio metabolic disorders and skipping main meal as stated by the report stemmed from too much consumption of sugary drinks, red meat and low-fat margarine and a lower consumption of vegetable oil as the individual tends to compensate for the energy deficit, this stemmed from the poor judgment in selection of unhealthy diet demonstrated by children who skipped main meal.

AVERTING MEAL SKIPPING CRISIS!

Solving meal-skipping behavior requires a simple approach that required dedication and commitment on the part of parents and the child’s environment.

A study conducted Chika Okada et al., in 2017 (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0066-5), implicated parents in the meal skipping and snacking behavior of their children, as the study concluded that children of parents that skipped meals also form the habit of skipping meals.  Therefore, Parents should ensure and motivate their children towards not skipping meals through leading by example.

In addition, to avert this crisis the parents and children environments, which include neighbors and schools, should ensure the children are surrounded by healthy meal choices.  This will help avert consuming unhealthy meals even when snacking behavior cannot be avoided or interrupted as they may not be with the children at all times.

In conclusion, the tendency of a child to skip a meal is largely dependent on the availability of scheduled main meals.  Therefore, everyone responsible for a child should ensure they get their meal at the appropriate time and in appropriate proportion.