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These children vary in their proportion of body fat.

Childhood obesity is a medical condition that affects children. It is characterized by a weight well above the mean for their height and age and a body mass index well above the norm. Childhood obesity is considered by many to be an "epidemic" in Western countries, in particular, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Over 15% of American children are currently considered obese, and the number is growing [1] and about 20-25% of Australian children classified as overweight or obese[2].


As with many conditions, childhood obesity can be brought on by a range of factors, often in combination.


Childhood obesity results from poor eating habits. It is also caused when someones parents are obese. Fast food restaurants and junk food are popular with children. In lieu of home cooking, it has become common for parents to take their children out to eat. Even when it is not a fast food restaurant, frequent eating out often results in weight gain.[3]

Children who do not engage in frequent physical activity are much more likely to suffer from obesity. This is said to be due in part to the recent technological developments, including video games, computers, and mobile phones.[4] Physically inactive children are unable to burn off the calories that they gain from eating. The body will store some or all of the unused energy as fat. [citations needed]

Also, children in lower-income households are more likely to become overweight than those in higher-income households. Not eating breakfast is also associated with an increase in obesity.[5]

Psychological Factors[]

These factors influence child's eating habits and many children eat in response to stress or negative emotions such as boredom, anger, sadness, anxiety or depression.


Often, a child whose parents are overweight or obese will also be overweight or obese. Although this is often caused by shared unhealthy eating habits in the household, it has been suggested that there may be a genetic (inherited) predisposition towards being, although this is as yet unproven and research is ongoing. Many children become slightly overweight because of their body's growth pattern. Some pediatricians may still classify this as childhood obesity.[citations needed]

 Recent studies have shown that while there is evidence of  in vitro influences on food choice, perhaps the largest influence can occur during the toddler years.[6] Indeed, recent studies have shown that parents influence an estimated 72% of what and how much their children eat on a daily basis. [7]


Conditions such as hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, depression and certain neurological problems can lead to obesity or a tendency to gain weight in a child. Also, drugs such as steroids and some antidepressants may lead to obesity or a tendency to gain weight in a child.


Without a change in diet or exercise patterns, childhood obesity can lead to life-threatening conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, cancer, and other disorders.[8][9] Studies have shown that overweight children are more likely to grow up to be overweight adults.[10]

Obese children often suffer from teasing amongst their peers.[11][12] Some are even harassed or discriminated against by their own family.[13] Stereotypes abound and may lead to low self esteem and depression.[14]


A study of 1800 children aged 2 to 12 in Colac, Australia tested a program of restricted diet (no carbonated drinks or sweets) and increased exercise. Interim results included a 68% increase in after school activity programs, 21% reduction in television viewing, and an average of 1 kg weight reduction compared to a control group.[15]

A survey carried out by the American Obesity Association into parental attitudes towards their children's weight showed the majority of parents think that recess should not be reduced or replaced. Almost 30% said that they were concerned with their child's weight. 35% of parents thought that their child's school was not teaching them enough about childhood obesity, and over 5% thought that childhood obesity was the greatest risk to their child's long term health.[16] Although obesity is more common in girls [17] it is much more noticeable in boys, so that is why it is assumed that there are more overweight boys than girls. This is because fat deposits are located in far less areas of the exterior of the male body then the female, therefore it becomes larger in a much shorter period of time, in a limited number of places. The main places where boys become fat is the stomach (the fattest area), the back, and the chest. This is why boys can develop a belly roll (stomach hangs over pants) very quickly, or large amounts of back fat, and even breasts. Also it is important to note that this swelling of the stomach is also due to the fact that boys tend to have larger appetites than girls and therefore when they become fat, they are fatter then the typical overweight girl.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

A Northwestern University study indicates that inadequate sleep has a negative impact on a child's performance in school, their emotional and social welfare, and increases their risk of being overweight. This study was the first nationally represented, longitudinal investigation of the correlation between sleep, Body Mass Index (BMI) and overweight status in children between the ages of 3 and 18. The study found that an extra hour of sleep lowered the children's risk of being overweight from 36% to 30%, while it lessened older children's risk from 34% to 30%. [18]

See also[]


  3. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (2006), Brian Wansink New York: OMG, shoes Bantam-Dell.
  4. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (2006), Brian Wansink New York: Bantam-Dell.
  6. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (2006), Brian Wansink New York: Bantam-Dell.
  7. "Nutritional Gatekeepers and the 72% Solution,” (2006) Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Brian Wansink 106:9 (September), 1324–1327.
  15. "Obesity study bears fruit", The Age, 24 August 2006.
  16. Survey on parents’ perceptions of their children's weight, American Obesity Association. August, 2000. Retrieved 2006-11-21
  18. Snell, Emily, Adam, Emma K. and Duncan, Greg J. (2007 January/February). Sleep and the Body Mass Index and Overweight Status of Children and Adolescents. Child Development 78 (1).

External links[]

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