Sunday Snippet: Child Obesity Causes and Consequences
Childhood obesity is a complex health issue. It occurs when a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height. The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults, including factors such as a person’s behavior and genetics.
Our nation’s overall increase in obesity also is influenced by a person’s community. Where people live can affect their ability to make healthy choices.
Behaviors that influence excess weight gain include eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, not getting enough physical activity, sedentary activities such as watching television or other screen devices, medication use, and sleep routines.
In contrast, consuming a healthy diet and being physically active can help children grow as well as maintain a healthy weight throughout childhood. Balancing energy or calories consumed from foods and beverages with the calories burned through activity plays a role in preventing excess weight gain. In addition, eating healthy and being physically active also has other health benefits and helps to prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Use these resources to eat well and be active!
A healthy diet follows the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for AmericansExternal that emphasizes eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, a variety of lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. It also limits eating foods and beverages with added sugars, solid fats, or sodium. The Physical Activity Guidelines for AmericansExternal recommends children aged 6 years or older do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Learn more about Healthy Weight—Finding a Balance
Consequences of Obesity
More Immediate Health Risks
- Obesity during childhood can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Children who have obesity are more likely to have(1-7)
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
- Breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
- Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
- Childhood obesity is also related to8-10:
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
- Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life.
- Social problems such as bullying and stigma.
Future Health Risks
- Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity.11 Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.12
- If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.13