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Childhood Obesity Causes in Ireland

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Due to the increase in obesity in Ireland, childhood obesity is becoming an issue. The statistics on obesity among Irish children has shown that the as of 1990, 2 percent of children were obese. As of 2016, the figures have increased exponentially; the percentage of obesity has risen to ten and nine percent in young boys and girls respectively. Furthermore, the number of people who are overweight has also seen a rise. According to research, 30.1 percent of girls and 31.6 percent of boys were found to be overweight. Predictions made by the World Obesity Federation have also shown that by 2025, more than 200,000 Irish school children will be either obese or overweight. Having realized that obesity is a concern, the cause must be well understood to make interventions possible. In this discourse, the researcher is investing the causes of obesity among the Irish children. Hence the research question, what are the major childhood obesity causes in Ireland?

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One of the reasons that have been found to cause obesity among Irish children is a poor physical activity or the lack of it. Additionally, research conducted in 2016 showed that only 9 percent of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland met the requirement, and only 32 percent of children in P7 met the given physical activity target. Recent studies done by Growing Up in Ireland showed that 22 percent of Irish nine-year-olds were classified as obese and overweight. This research, which examines more than 7,500 children and their families, is the fourth in a series of interviews undertaken by ESRI and Trinity College Dublin at various stages of their lives. Only a quarter of nine-year-olds have reached the recommended physical activity level that is at least 60 minutes a day. Increasing exposure in childhood to laptops, tablets and gaming consoles induces long-term weight gain – listed as one of the primary causes of cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Fifteen percent of all nine-year-olds watched two or more hours on weekdays watching TV and DVDs. While the majority of children were a healthy weight, 17 percent of children were classified as overweight, and 5 percent were considered obese. Children were drawn into a sedentary culture of car seats, buggies, indoor life, and computers. With safety time saving and comfort at a premium, they are snuffing out their opportunities to run around, never mind exploratory, risk-taking, outdoor free play. According to a report submitted to the European Congress on Obesity in Prague in May 2015, about 27.5% of Ireland’s under-fives were listed as overweight or obese. That was the highest rate among the 28 countries analysed in Europe.

The second cause of obesity among Irish children could be the increased intake of calories. In Ireland, children are exceeding the recommended intake of ‘free sugars’ at an accelerating rate. In the ten-year period 2006-2016, the results food surveys of Irish children and adolescent show that eating habits do not meet optimal health requirements.Dr. Tara Coppinger and her team at Cork Institute of Technology’s Department of Sport, Leisure, and Childhood conducted a study. They cooperated with The University of Roehampton in the UK. Through research they have discovered that 68% of the meals they analysed contained both saturated and total fats that exceeded the recommended health guidelines for children. New research in support of the START Campaign, the HSE and Healthy Ireland showed that unhealthy food such as chips and sweets were children’s second–most-eaten food group. A new study also found that 29% of afternoon and evening snacks for kids were high in fat, sugar and salt products. About one third of Irish children are now overweight, and new data reveals that Ireland is ranked 58th out of 200 countries due to its proportion of overweight youths. In 1975, 1% of children were classified as obese in Ireland, but this grew to 9% among girls and 10% among boys by 2016.Researchers at Trinity College Dublin Dental University Hospital have discovered that Ireland’s 3-year-old consumes an average of 10 levels of ‘free sugar’ teaspoons a day. Results show that 75% of 3-year-olds had free intake of sugar higher than the recommended intake under recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Despite the environmental factors that cause obesity, as well as the choice of food and lack of physical activity, there are also external factors for example genetics that have been found to contribute to obesity. Studies continue to show that obesity in Ireland is on the rise, which means that there is a need for intervention. A study found that children are 3.2 times more likely to be obese when one parent is overweight or obese, and they are 9.5 times more likely to be obese if both parents are obese or overweight. Parental obesity is one of the major causes of childhood obesity which reflects the position of shared genes and the mutual environment. Nonetheless, most people living in an environment that benefits and leads to obesity may gain some weight. The amount of weight that they carry relies on the brain’s subcortical regions.The Oireachtas heard that many parents mistakenly believe that the right weight for their height is their child. Dr. McCrory, a Trinity College Senior Research Fellow, has used the Growing Up in Ireland study of a large nationally representative sample of children to publish his obesity research over several years. One out of five of parents of obese children do not realize that their children are obese. 

Obesity is a global problem and it has been recorded as an epidemic in developed nations. In Ireland, obesity is affecting the children, and the prevalence rate of obesity among people aged below 18 has increased. The discussed studies in this discourse have shown that the three major causes of obesity are; poor physical activity levels, eating high calories and parenting and genetics. Studies show that Irish children do not engage in physical activities and do not even reach the required range of physical activities. Furthermore, there are indicators that young people are eating an abundance snacks and processed foods that are also leading to increased calories.

Moreover, research has also revealed that genetics also has a role to play in obesity. Therefore, it is possible that children with obesity in Ireland are also having these conditions because of heredity. With this knowledge, steps can now be taken to counter obesity. The first step would be to initiate and encourage fitness programs in schools and at home for the children. Secondly, parents can minimize the consumption of snacks among their children and encourage them to eat a healthy diet. Thirdly, since genetics are also a reason for obesity, children from obese families should be made aware and prevention measures should be taken.   

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