Weight Management

Childhood Overweight and Obesity: Causes and Consequences

Nathan Carr, Fitness Coach, Aspetar/ Fitness Coach
07 October, 2018

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Obesity and overweight are defined as the accumulation of excess fat in the body. Obesity is measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated through dividing the weight (in kg) by the square of height (in meters) of an adult [weight/height2]. However, with young children and adolescents, healthcare professionals use BMI percentiles based on age, height, weight and gender due to the fact that they are continuously growing, unlike adults.  If a child’s BMI falls between the 85th percentile (inclusive) and the 95th percentile, they are considered as overweight. However, if the child’s BMI is in the 95th percentile they are considered as obese.

Childhood overweight and obesity are considered a serious health problem worldwide in both developed and developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2011, over 40 million children below the age of 5 were found overweight. Therefore, there is an urgent need to address such issue. However, it is important to consider the complexities of both the behavioral and environmental causes (listed below) when devising a preventative strategy or intervention.


Behavioral Factors

  • Consumption of high-caloric, low-nutrient foods and beverages
  • Lack of physical activity
  • To many sedentary activities (excessive screen time)
  • Poor sleeping patterns

An imbalance between energy intake and expenditure is widely accepted as the culprit behind the increased prevalence of obesity worldwide, this is largely related to behavioral factors. However, environmental factors strongly influence the nutritional and physical activity behaviors of children.


Environmental Factors

  • Families and Communities
  • Schools
  • Health Care Providers
  • Government Agencies
  • Food and Beverage Industries
  • Media and Entertainment Industries
  • Demographics

Research suggests that a combined community intervention conducted within schools premises including both nutrition and physical activity can be effective in preventing obesity and overweight. Parental involvement in such interventions is also important to advocate for a healthier lifestyle at home. Children education about healthy food habits and physical activity at schools, as well as homes, will eventually increase their ability to make better healthy choices. Focusing on these causes may decrease the consequences of childhood obesity and lead to a healthier society.


Consequences of Childhood Obesity

  • Increased risk of chronic conditions and diseases (i.e. asthma, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, sleep apnea and heart disease)
  • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Low confidence and self esteem
  • Higher risk of bully or social related problems
  • Child obesity leads to adult obesity and increased disease risk factors in adulthood
  • Associated with poor academic performance
  • Lower quality of life experienced by the child



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