Our Parenting World Interview Series: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Nataniel Viuniski, a pediatrician and nutritional expert whose main areas of interest are in weight management and childhood obesity
The World Health Organization (WHO) cites childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, affecting many low and middle income countries. The number of overweight or obese infants and young children, under 5 years of age, has increased at an alarming rate, and as of 2015, they estimate that almost half of all overweight children under the age of five live in Asia.
As a consequence, rising obesity in children and young adults will push up the rate of diabetes in Singapore which is already among the highest in the developed world, going by recent studies. Based on projections, over a third of people aged 24 to 35 can expect to be diabetic by the time they are 65.
Exclusive Interview with Dr. Nataniel Viuniski
Our Parenting World (OPW) team is honoured to be able to interview Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board member, Dr. Nathaniel Viuniski (NV) who is also a Childhood Obesity expert on combating childhood obesity rates and diabetes in Southeast Asia.
1) Based on your observation, please share with us your views on childhood obesity and diabetes in Singapore and what could be the potential causes?
NV: The prevalence of childhood obesity and diabetes is increasing year after year in Singapore. The main causes are the convenience and easy accessibility of high caloric foods, sedentary lifestyles, sleep deprivation and stress.
2) Singapore is known to be a food paradise. How can parents set a good example and to cultivate good eating habit for their kids to follow?
NV: Parents should be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding during early stages of life, to encourage consumption of 5-7 portions of fruits and vegetables daily, avoid high caloric soft drinks, having more homemade meals and less fast-food.
3) It has been mentioned that the World Health Organization indicated that obese infants and children are likely to continue being obese during adulthood and are more likely to develop a variety of health problems as adults. What can parents with obese children do to help them?
NV: The best approach is to have healthy food at home. Make foods like vegetables, fruits, protein bars and nuts available and easily accessible to your children. Soft drinks, biscuits, candies and fast food should not be forbidden, but reserve them for special moments. The most important thing a parent can do is to lead by example, having a healthy and active lifestyle model for your children. An alternative would be to seek support from health professionals. A multi-professional team formed by pediatricians, dietitians and psychologists can be very helpful.
4) Please share with us your advice on how parents can take precautionary measures to prevent their kids from acquiring diabetes.
NV: Type II Diabetes is a very serious disease and prevention is the best approach. Adopting healthy lifestyles, breastfeeding instead of formula milk, encouraging and increasing the level of physical activities are some preventive measures. On the other hand, if there is any history of diabetes running in the family, it is important to have regular checks with a pediatrician for the child during all of infancy.
5) What can parents from families with history of diabetes do to help their kids in terms of reducing the risks of diabetes?
NV: The recommendations are the same for all families, but as mentioned before, if there is any history of diabetes in the family, regular pediatrician follow-ups are vital to identify any changes in the children’s health as soon as possible and prevent medical complications.
6) Can you advise how we can incorporate balanced nutrition habits in our daily life?
NV: Balanced nutrition and active lifestyles are habits and they need to be reinforced daily, until it becomes an automatic behavior. To note down what the family will eat and physical activities that one does in a diary is a good idea to start. On the other hand, avoiding high caloric foods and limiting time in front of screens such as the television, smart phones and video games are very helpful as well.
7) Please share with us on how Herbalife can help both parents and kids to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
NV: Herbalife is a nutrition company that promotes balance nutrition and healthy life style in more than 90 countries around the world. In Southeast Asia, Herbalife doesn’t have any children-focused product, but by promoting healthy and active lifestyles to parents, this company is helping to improve families health and increasing the quality of life, turning this world into a healthier and happier place.
8) Lastly, do you have anything to add on and share with our readers?
NV: Remember that children pay more attention in what we do than in what we say! The most important contribution that we can do to prevent pediatric obesity is to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle. Lead by example by being positive role models!
Thank you Dr. Nataniel Viuniski for taking our interview!
Dr. Nataniel Viuniski
Nataniel Viuniski M.D. is a pediatrician and nutritional expert whose main areas of interest are in weight management and childhood obesity. He is also an advisor to Brazil’s Health and Education Ministry for Childhood Obesity, a professor of human nutrition in graduate course work, Scientific Advisor at Brasilia Catholic University, and Director of Nutrition Service for Unimed Hospital in Rio Grande do Sul.
He is the author of “Childhood Obesity – A Practical Guide” and Ali Mente Ação (successful book about healthy lifestyle and weight control) as well as many other scientific published works and book chapters.
He is an invited speaker on nutrition in many Brazilian and International Universities and gave lectures on healthy life style in more than 30 countries in all continents.
Dr. Viuniski holds a medical degree from the Escola Médica da Universidade de Passo Fundo (Medical School of Passo Fundo University) in Rio Grande do Sul; a postgraduate degree in pediatrics from Hospital Infantil Conceicao de Porto Alegre (Children Hospital Conceicao de Porto Alegre); a postgraduate degree in nutrition from ABRAN (Brazilian Association of Nutrition); and a master’s degree in weight control and physical activity from Rio Grande do Sul Federal University.