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You are what you eat, and ate as a child

Healthy Eating
 An obese child is likely to become obese throughout adulthood (Photo: iStock)

An obese child is likely to become obese throughout adulthood. There is consistent evidence that on top of a genetic predisposition to obesity; the overall nutritional pattern plays a role in the development of such metabolic conditions later in life.

There are many reports on exclusive breastfeeding, malnutrition, and how the effects of tropical diseases such as malaria and intestinal worms affect feeding patterns in children in Kenya.

According to research, a high-sugar, high-fat diet - otherwise known as a Western diet - in childhood can have negative effects later in life even with healthier adjustments in adulthood.

Such a diet causes a significant decline in the diversity of gut microbiome - bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that naturally live in the digestive tracks.


Gut microbiomes are mostly useful in breaking down food particles, processing key vitamins, and stimulating the immune system against infection.

The decline is attributed to the change in the genetic material of these useful microorganisms due to unhealthy elements of the western diet.

Gut microbiomes are generally altered by the consumption of an unhealthy diet and the ingestion of chemicals such as antibiotics.

Red meat, processed meat, butter, candy, pre-packaged foods, fried foods, mayonnaise, pizza, and pies - junk food - are some of the things we feed our children just to make them happy.

Research cautions that junk food is attractive and addictive to children because of the taste and colourful adverts.

They may be high in fat, sugar, and even salt but they contain relatively low amounts of important nutrients including vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fibre.

Even though economic empowerment and increased travel have made such unhealthy foods seem 'cool', they bring along long-term health implications.

Some of the immediate health complications include elevated blood cholesterol, hypertension, and insulin resistance. In a healthy body, there is a balance of pathogenic and beneficial organisms.

However, if the balance is disturbed, either through the use of antibiotics, illness, or an unhealthy diet, the body could become susceptible to disease. Cater to your child's nutritional requirements.


A 2010 survey found that 18 per cent of Kenyan children aged between three and five years were overweight while 4 per cent of them were obese.

Obesity and overweight are significant indicators of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease diabetes and kidney diseases, especially in urban areas.

RTI International estimates that more than half of in-patient admissions and 40 per cent of hospital deaths in Kenya are due to NCDs.

Mothers are advised to include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, iron-rich food, nutritious fasts, and food high in vitamin C. Such a diet will ensure a healthy child becomes a healthier adult.

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