Childhood obesity


Childhood obesity is a chronic condition characterized by children having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for their age, height, and sex assigned at birth. It’s a serious concern as it predisposes children to health issues traditionally seen in adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Additionally, it can lead to psychological problems like poor self-esteem and depression. For accurate assessment, healthcare providers use age- and sex-specific BMI growth charts due to the natural changes in body composition as children grow.

One effective approach to combating childhood -obesity is by fostering better eating and exercise habits within the family setting. This not only helps in treating the current condition but also in preventing future incidences of obesity. By prioritizing a healthy lifestyle, families can safeguard their children’s health both now and in the future, steering them away from the onset of obesity-related complications.


Not all children who appear heavier are necessarily overweight. Some have larger body frames naturally, and children go through stages where they carry varying amounts of body fat. Simply looking at a child might not accurately indicate whether their weight is a concern for their health.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measurement used to assess overweight and obesity by comparing weight to height. Pediatricians use BMI along with growth charts and, if needed, additional tests to determine if a child’s weight might lead to health issues.

If you are concerned about your child’s weight gain, it is advisable to consult with their doctor. The doctor will review your child’s growth and developmental history, your family’s weight and height patterns, and analyze their position on the growth charts to assess if your child’s weight is within an unhealthy range.


Childhood obesity is influenced by a myriad of factors that impact a child’s health and weight.

Caloric Balance
Proper balance between calorie intake and energy usage is crucial. Excess calories are stored as body fat.

Genetics and Epigenetics

  • Genetics: A family history of obesity increases the risk, though not all children with obese relatives will become obese.
  • Epigenetics: External factors like adversity can alter gene expression affecting metabolism and increasing obesity risk.

Influential factors include:

  • Diet and eating habits.
  • High consumption of sugar-sweetened and processed foods.
  • Increased screen time and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Inadequate sleep and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Social determinants of health (SDoHs): Environmental and social conditions affect obesity risks, such as:

  • Access to healthy foods and recreational facilities.
  • Proximity to fast food outlets.
  • Economic and social support systems.

Cultural factors: Advertising influences eating behaviors, with children exposed to marketing for unhealthy foods often consuming more of those foods.

Underlying health conditions: Some medical issues can contribute to obesity, including:

  • Hormonal imbalances (e.g., hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome).
  • Genetic conditions (e.g., Prader-Willi syndrome).
  • Certain medications (e.g., antipsychotics, corticosteroids).

Understanding these factors can aid in managing and preventing childhood obesity through targeted interventions.

Risk factors

Childhood obesity can impact any child, though it tends to be more prevalent in specific groups. Recent data indicates that the rates of childhood obesity have decreased with higher levels of education among the heads of households.

Risk factors that may contribute to childhood obesity include:

  • Family factors: Family behaviors, such as shared eating habits and a lack of physical activity, can play a role in the development of childhood obesity. Children may be more prone to gain weight if they are raised in an overweight family.
  • Diet: Busy families are increasingly consuming foods and drinks that are high in fat, sugar, and calories, often lacking essential vitamins and minerals. Regular consumption of high-calorie items and sugar-filled beverages like baked goods, fast food, candies, fruit juices, and sports drinks may contribute to weight gain.
  • Insufficient physical activity: Many children are reducing outdoor activities and becoming more sedentary indoors. The rising popularity of video games, tablets, and smartphones may contribute to an even greater number of inactive hours. Children with low levels of physical activity are at a higher risk of weight gain because they do not expend as many calories.
  • Psychological factors: Some kids overindulge in food as a coping mechanism for issues or as a way to express emotions like stress or boredom. Stress in the home, on parents, and in the family can raise a child’s risk of obesity.
  • Socioeconomic factors: The risk of childhood obesity can be influenced by the child’s residential environment, with factors such as the availability and affordability of healthy food options, the social support system, and the accessibility of recreational facilities or safe spaces for physical activity playing significant roles.
  • Certain medications: Prednisone, lithium, amitriptyline, paroxetine, gabapentin, and propranolol are among the prescription medications that may elevate the likelihood of developing obesity.