Dubai: Overweight and obese children run the risk of growing into adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, health specialists warn.

A study conducted in the UAE in 2013 and published in the International Journal of Obesity, indicates that approximately 20 per of children in the age group of 6-10 and 40 per cent in the age group of 11-19 are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is increasingly becoming a public health challenge in the UAE that must be addressed with diligence.

It is important that parents of obese children recognise the risk that childhood obesity triggers for adult health and take determined action.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Abdishakur Abdulle, Associate Director - Public Health Research Centre, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE, said: “Parental involvement is a key factor in the deterrence and management of childhood obesity, thus parental recognition of weight problems is vital. Yet, the majority of parents of overweight/obese children usually underestimate their children’s weight condition. This poses a clear obstacle to prevention, thus obesity prevention programmes should take into account the important role of parents in developing national prevention strategies for childhood obesity.”

The findings of the study indicate that a higher BMI percentile among children is directly associated with higher blood pressure levels. And, although the authors, including Dr Abdulle, could not establish a causal effect, these results lend weight to the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is likely to become a harbinger for chronic diseases in the future.

“Clearly, the prevalence of childhood obesity is not only high across all ages of children and adolescents in the UAE, but is also associated with higher blood pressure. Obstacles to prevention include parental misperceptions. Together, such findings warrant the development of a better prevention strategy to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity,” added Dr Abdulle.