Factors Causing Childhood Obesity
Preventing and treating obesity is difficult. Causes are
different from person to person and are still not fully
understood. They include genetics, the environment and
It has been shown that children with obese
parents are more likely to be obese. But is it for genetic
or environmental reasons? One estimate says that heredity
contributes between 5 and 25 percent of the risk for
obesity. The remaining risk is attributed to environmental
and behavioral factors. Others believe that genetics may
play a bigger role. Regardless, the interrelationship
between genetics and the environment is clear: Parents
provide genes, role models, and food.
U.S. dietary patterns have changed significantly over the
past few decades. Over nutrition has replaced under
nutrition as the largest nutrition-related problem facing
both children and adults. Although the percent of calories
from total fat have declined over the past 30 years, total
calories have increased. Soft drink consumption has also
boomed, adding more calories and less nutrients to
Americans' diets. Our environment also supports "oversize"
through large portion sizes at restaurants. These trends
play roles in the increasing rate of obesity, along with
lack of physical activity.
Research studies differ on whether obese consume more energy
(calories) than non-obese individuals. Some show they do
consume more; others show they may consumer fewer calories.
The big difference may be in the type of nutrients that they
consume, such as fat. For example, Gazzaniga, et al found
that the percentage of body fat was positively correlated
with total dietary fat. Still, other researchers suggest
that the reasons are metabolic in origin and that obese
individuals "process" foods differently resulting in an
increase in body fat. Although how these factors affect
obesity are not fully understood, one thing is clear:
Obesity results when energy intake exceeds energy
expenditure and is stored as fat.
Ellyn Satter, author of Child of Mine: Feeding with Love
and Good Sense, firmly believes in the importance of
"the feeding relationship" and its implications for obesity.
The feeding relationship is the interaction that takes place
between parents and children around food. Obese children
need to learn to listen to their internal cues of hunger and
appetite. Parents and childcare providers must help them do
so. This includes encouraging children to eat according to
these cues, while acknowledging the emotional aspect of
feeding and eating. A restrictive diet may make the child
feel deprived and neglected, and exacerbate the overeating
Children and adolescents who watched the most TV were more
obese than peers who watched it less. In general, the more
TV they watched, the greater the prevalence of obesity.
There are several ways television contributes to childhood
Watching TV requires no energy above resting metabolic
TV reduces the time the child spends in energetic
activities, such as running and playing. In other words,
it's not what the child is doing but rather what he/she is
not doing while watching TV.
The foods most heavily advertised on TV are high in
calories: candy bars, sugared cereals, etc.
The slim figures of TV stars may indirectly suggest to
children that high calorie food and drinks have little
effect on weight.
TV characters are typically snacking, not sitting down for
Studies conducted in the last 20 to 30 years show a strong
correlation between obesity and lack of physical activity.
Nearly half of youths aged 12 to 21 years old are not
vigorously active on a regular basis (20 minutes, three
times a week).
Inside this research collection, you will find:
School Programs and Exercise
How Nutrition in School Can Help to Fight Childhood Obesity?
What are the RISKS of OBESITY?
Top Ten TIPS for parents of Obese and Over Weight Children!
Getting support from Family, Friends and the Community...
How to seek a Professional Help?
How to Create a ‘‘PERSONAL WEIGHT LOSS OR WEIGHT CONTROL
PLAN’’ for your Child?
Little People With Adult Diseases
In addition to bone and joint pain, irregular menstrual
cycles, and breathing problems, today’s overweight children
run the risk of acquiring diseases once thought to be
adult-only afflictions. Startling facts show:
Obese children and adolescents have shown an alarming
increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, also known as
Many obese children have high cholesterol and blood pressure
levels, which are risk factors for heart disease.
One of the most severe problems for obese children is sleep
apnea (interrupted breathing while sleeping). In some
cases, this can lead to problems with learning and memory.
Obese children have a high incidence of orthopedic problems,
liver disease, and asthma.
Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming
overweight or obese adults.
Some health problems do not affect people until they reach
adulthood but in many cases, the seeds of disease are sown
in childhood when obesity is a problem. The potential for a
healthy adulthood can be increased when a healthy eating
style and healthy weight are maintained.
Weighty Health Issues
Asthma and other breathing problems
Sleep Apnea (pauses in breathing)
High blood pressure
Type 2 Diabetes
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
Gallstones and gall bladder disease
High blood pressure
Type 2 Diabetes
Congestive heart failure
Respiratory problems, sleep apnea.
High risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer
High risk of sudden death
High risk of anesthesia complications
Infertility and pregnancy complications
Gallstones and gall bladder disease
Obesity Facts on Child Obesity
A recent study (2005) on feeding Infants & Toddlers by
Gerber Products Co, Mathematica Policy Research Inc.
revealed that the eating habits that are fueling an epidemic
of obesity are starting in the crib. Note what US infants
and toddlers eat daily.
Number of Children Eating
9 - 11
9 - 11
Hot Dogs, Sausage or Becon
If you look at the fat, sugar and cholesterol contents of
these food items, you will know why our children are
becoming overweight. [You can find these values in nutrition
and cholesterol pages.] You can always train your children
to eat healthy. Swap these junk foods with healthy foods.
When your children are young, they depend on you for
guidance for foods. You can stop them becoming overweight.
Read for healthy food swaps for kids.
While swaping foods, keep in mind that low-fat is always not
good. Read the food labels. A low fat food may be loaded
with sugars. A food may be rich in calcium or fibers but
high in sugars, or high in iron but low in fibers. In a
recent (2005) survey in Australia, only about 40 (out of
100) breakfast cereals were found healthy for children and
Prevention of Obesity
Although trying to help overweight children lose weight is
important, even more important may be trying to prevent them
from becoming overweight in the first place. This too is not
easy, but something that needs to be started in early
childhood, especially if your child is at risk for becoming
obese, like if they have overweight parents.
Targeting the behaviors that lead children to become
overweight can be helpful in preventing your child from
becoming overweight. These include unhealthy eating habits
and a lack of physical activity and exercise.
Tips, both to prevent obesity and help your child lose
limiting the number of calories that your child drinks. For
example, many kids drink too much juice and soda each day.
Sticking to the usual recommend limits of 4-6 ounces of 100%
fruit juice for children under age 6 years and only 8-12
ounces for older children can help to limit excessive weight
limiting the amount of milk that younger children drink.
Although drinking milk is important and it is a good source
of calcium, too much milk can lead to your child becoming
overweight. Obesity often starts in early childhood, with a
common scenario being a child who drinks too much milk.
Children usually only need about 16-24 ounces of milk each
Avoiding frequent meals of fast food.
Don't 'super size' your child's meals. A common problem that
contributes to overweight children are meals with portions
that are too large.
Don't force younger children to 'clean their plates.' An
important way to help children learn to eat healthy is for
them to know that they can stop eating when they are full.
Encourage regular exercise and physical activity in your
children each day. This may include going for walks as a
family, playing outside, riding a bike, or participating in
organized sports, like soccer and baseball.
limit inactivity by setting strict limits on watching
television and playing computer and video games.
Avoiding allowing your children eat while watching TV.
Instead, limit meals to the dinner table.
Don't put too much of a focus on what your child eats.
Remember not too restrict calories and instead, offer a
healthy diet with 3 healthy meals (don't skip meals,
especially breakfast) and a few snacks, and allow occasional
treats. Talking to your child too much about calories, fat
and dieting can actually cause more harm than good, leading
to eating disorders.
know what your child is eating and where his calories are
And also important, be a good role model for your children
by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Keep in
mind that a healthy diet is usually low in saturated fat
(<10% of calories) and cholesterol (<300 mg/d) and moderate
in total fat (<30%–35% calories).
Losing weight is not easy and you may need to get extra help
for your child. This will likely include your Pediatrician,
who can monitor your child's weight gain and loss every few
months, but it might also include a Registered Dietician,
who can help you come up with a more healthy diet for your
If being overweight is affecting your child's mood or
self-esteem, then a Child Psychologist might also be
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