Child Obesity Information and Related Health Issues

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Updated/Revised Date: 2023/08/31
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Synopsis: Information including helpful references and documents on childhood obesity and health issues overweight children face. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.


Main Document

Obesity in childhood and adolescence appears to track into adulthood, increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and certain cancers in adulthood. To mount effective preventive efforts, we need better information regarding the factors involved in the etiology of childhood obesity and overweight children.

Childhood obesity is defined as a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child's health or well-being. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on BMI. Due to the rising prevalence of obesity in children and its many adverse health effects, it is being recognized as a serious public health concern. Overweight and obesity are the result of caloric imbalance too few calories expended for the number of calories consumed, and are impacted by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

High fat fast food diets are becoming more of a staple in children's diets, and even when they do receive home cooked meals, some children suffer poor diets as parents typically are not aware of the nutritional value of the foods they prepare. It's a double whammy for children, they are getting poorer nutrition in the foods they eat, and they are exercising less to burn off the extra calories.

It is apparent that obesity is triggered by eating a diet high in fat and calories, being sedentary, or a combination of both. There can be other factors, including genetics, hormones, behavior, environment, and culture. And, obesity is not limited to grown-ups. Approximately 25 to 30% of adult obesity cases began with childhood obesity. You have heard the story, "I was overweight when I was younger, and this is something that has continued into adulthood." To help arrest the trends in childhood obesity, both the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine have recommended that obesity-prevention efforts begin early in life.

Diagram of a male child with excess belly fat having his waistline measured by a doctor.
Diagram of a male child with excess belly fat having his waistline measured by a doctor. See our article: How To Measure Your Waist Circumference Properly.

Children With Low Self-Control, More Likely to Become Overweight Pre-Teens

Young children who do not display an ability to regulate their behavior or to delay gratification in exchange for a larger reward appear predisposed to gain extra weight by their pre-teen years, according to published reports. The implication is that interventions to enhance energy-balance regulation in young children will benefit from efforts to encourage self-regulation in other domains, such as encouraging self-control and delay of gratification, both of which are important factors in regulating energy intake.

Prescriptions Increase Among Children and Teens

A national study on the belly fat issue among boys and girl found that among boys the incidence of belly fat had increased 65% and the incidence among girls was up 70%. The findings are painting a bleak picture for children. Children with belly fat are more prone to develop type II diabetes, and some are even being reported to have early onset cardiovascular disease.

The prevalence of children and teens who were prescribed medications for hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol) or diabetes (including insulin) increased 15.2 percent, from 3.3 per 1,000 youths in November 2004 to 3.8 per 1,000 youths in June 2007. "The increasing use of oral anti-diabetic and antihypertensive pharmacotherapy among children and adolescents, especially in the younger age group, indicates either an increased awareness of treatment needs or increased incidence of cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with adult populations," the authors write.

When assessed separately, cholesterol-controlling therapy was uncommon (prescribed to 0.2 per 1,000 youths overall) and declined 22.9 percent during the study period. "The decrease in treatment of dyslipidemia may reflect the ongoing controversy regarding statin use," the authors conclude.

Racial Disparities in Childhood Obesity

Obesity appears twice as common among American Indian and Native Alaskan children than non-Hispanic white or Asian children at age 4. Sarah E. Anderson, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, and Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., M.P.H., of Temple University, Philadelphia, studied a nationally representative sample of 8,550 U.S. children born in 2001. In 2005, 18.4 percent of the 4-year-olds were obese, including 31.2 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskan children, 22 percent of Hispanic children, 20.8 percent of non-Hispanic black children, 15.9 percent of non-Hispanic white children and 12.8 percent of Asian children.

Teens Who Give Birth More Likely to Be Overweight

Girls who give birth between ages 15 and 19 appear to be substantially heavier, with more abdominal fat, regardless of their childhood weight or of other risk factors for weight gain.

Adolescence has been identified as one of the critical periods of development that set the stage for the onset of obesity later in life. Earlier age at a first birth (younger than 20 years) has been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease in women. Thus, the influence of gestational weight gain on changes in growth and adiposity during adolescence is an important aspect for future investigation.

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2023, August 31). Child Obesity Information and Related Health Issues. Disabled World. Retrieved November 30, 2023 from

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