Body Mass Index of Children 5–18 Years in Association with their Nutritional Habits and Exercise

Introduction: Over the last few decades, obesity in children and adults is rising at an alarming rate worldwide, thus raising serious concerns not only for parents but also for health professionals and for policy-makers on the obesity prevention. Τhe use of body mass index (BMI) for the definition of obesity has been globally established for the reason, it is easily applied in both clinical practice and epidemiological studies. Purpose: The purpose of this research was to estimate BMI in children and adolescents aged 5-18 years and explore its' association with their eating habits and levels of physical exercise. Material and Method: The sample of the study consisted of 504 children aged 5-18 years from the region of Piraeus and Athens. The research was conducted in the pediatric department of PEDY in Piraeus from April to July 2016. Data were collected by the completion of a questionnaire which included the child's characteristics and the and one body image scale which explores satisfaction with body image in children. Statistical analysis was performed with the SPSS version 21 statistical package and statistics methods used were the t-test and anova test. As statistically significant was considered the level of significance 5%. Results: Of the 504 children, 251 (49.8%) were boys and 253 (50.2%) girls. The 33.5% of the sample was 7 to 9 years old, the 37.7% was 10 to 12 and 28.8% was 13 to 18 years old. With regard to BMI, 4.2% of the sample was underweight, 58.3% had a normal weight, 29.4% was overweight and 8.2% was obese. Moreover, 82.6% of the participants lived with both parents and 17.4% with one parent. 68.5% had breakfast always, 18.2% sometimes and 13.4% rare. The results also showed that higher BMI had children 13 to 18 years old (p=<0.001) with a statistically significant difference from the age group of 7-9 years and 10-12 years, (p=<0.001), respectively. Children living with one parent had a higher BMI (p=0.006) but no significant difference was shown in waist/hip ratio. Lower BMI had children always taking breakfast (p=0.024) and those who consumed no meal outside home (p=0.025). It was also found that children who consumed red meat 3-7 times a week, pasta and soft drinks had a higher BMI (p=0.014), (p=0.035), (p =0.035), respectively. Participants who spent more than 5 hours on foreign language, music, computer and non-exercising lessons had a higher BMI (p=0.001), (p = 0.008), respectively. Children with high BMI and high waist /hip ratio were not satisfied with their body image (p=<0.001), (p=<0.001), respectively. Regarding the graphical representation of their body, children who rated their body as overweight or obese had higher BMI (p=<0.001) but did not differ in the waist/hip ratio. Finally, it was found that the children who circled in the sketch the extremely low weight persons more often, had a lower BMI (p=<0.001). Conclusions: This study illustrates that factors related to childhood obesity are socio-demographic, such as child's age, marital status, maternal BMI, physical activity and type of activity. The growing problem of childhood obesity can be resolved only if parents, schools, social institutions and stakeholders in health care systems will focus on the causes. It is crucial for parents to educate children on food choices and encourage them to exercise regularly.