Obesity in Children

The number of overweight children has doubled in recent years, with a 25% of children considered overweight or obese. Causes of obesity in children include lack of physical activity, unhealthy food choices, and family eating habits.

A rise in the number of overweight children is disturbing because it causes health problems and can lead to social problems. Overweight children are more likely to develop low self-esteem, have body image problems and to be teased by their peers. It requires a lot of effort and commitment for children to return to a healthy weight, once they are overweight

Overweight and obesity in children are among the most important risks to children’s long and short-term health; overweight children are very likely to become overweight adults.

Your body stores unused energy as body fat; to maintain a healthy weight, you need to use the energy from the foods you eat. If you eat more than you use, your body will store the extra energy as fat.

Factors that may cause children to become overweight and obese include:

  • Food choices – these include choosing high fat and sugary foods instead of healthier options.
  • Lack of physical activity – children is less active than they were in the past.
  • Spending a lot of time on sedentary pursuits – children watch, on average, around 2 hours of television a day, as well as spending time using computers and other electronic gadgets.
  • Overweight parents – a family’s eating habits can have a major influence on whether a child maintains a healthy weight. Overweight parents may be less concerned about their children also being overweight than parents who have a healthy weight.
  • Genetics – some rare genetic disorders cause severe childhood obesity. If there is a family tendency to become overweight, parents need to be even more aware of making healthy food choices for the whole family.

Levels of childhood obesity are increasing at alarming rates in many countries; one in five children and adolescents are either overweight or obese. Overweight or obese children are more likely to remain obese as adolescents and become overweight or obese adults; about 80% of obese adolescents will become obese adults.

From 1985 to 1995 the number of overweight 7– 15-year-olds almost doubled and the numbers of obese children has more than tripled. At the current rate, it is predicted that 65% of the young population will be overweight or obese by 2020.

Obesity can have a major impact on how children feel about themselves and how they interact with others. Obese adolescents are more likely to have low self-esteem, which may impact on other aspects of their lives, such as the competency in school and the development of friendships.

Being obese as a child or adolescent increases the risk of disorders and a range of diseases in adulthood, regardless of whether the adult is obese or not. It’s important to identify and start to reverse the condition before children become adults. Ideally, overweight and obesity should be prevented.