Obesity in children means having a weight than is higher than what is healthy for a child’s height. Obesity is a serious, chronic disease. Over time, it can lead to other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Obese - children
When children eat more food than their bodies need for normal growth and activity, the extra calories are stored in fat cells for later use. If this pattern continues over time, they develop more fat cells and may develop obesity.
Normally, infants and young children respond to signals of hunger and fullness so that they do not consume more calories than their bodies need. However, changes over the last few decades in lifestyle and food choices have led to the rise of obesity among children.
Children are surrounded by many things that make it easy to overeat and harder to be active. Foods that are high in fat and sugar content often come in large portion sizes. These factors can lead children to take in more calories than they need before they feel full. TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the food in ads aimed at children is high in sugar, salt, or fats.
"Screen time" activities such as watching television, gaming, texting, and playing on the computer require very little energy. They often take the place of healthy physical exercise. Also, children tend to crave unhealthy snack foods they see in TV ads.
Other factors in the child's environment can also lead to obesity. Family, friends, and school setting help shape a child's diet and exercise choices. Food may be used as a reward or to comfort a child. These learned habits can lead to overeating. Many people have a hard time breaking these habits later in life.
Genetics, medical conditions, and emotional disorders can also increase a child's risk for obesity. Hormone disorders or low thyroid function, and certain medicines, such as steroids or anti-seizure medicines, can increase a child's appetite. Over time, this increases their risk for obesity.
An unhealthy focus on eating, weight, and body image can lead to an eating disorder. Obesity and eating disorders often occur at the same time in teenage girls and young adult women who may be unhappy with their body image.
SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD
The first step in helping your child get to a healthy weight is to talk to the child's provider. The provider can help to set healthy goals for weight loss and help with monitoring and support.
Try to get the whole family to join in making healthy behavior changes. Weight-loss plans for children focus on healthy lifestyle habits. A healthy lifestyle is good for everyone, even if weight loss is not the main goal.
Having support from friends and family can also help your child lose weight.
CHANGING YOUR CHILD'S LIFESTYLE
Eating a balanced diet means your child consumes the right types and amounts of foods and drinks to keep their body healthy.
Make sure children have a chance to engage in healthy physical activity every day.
WHAT ELSE TO THINK ABOUT
Talk to your provider before giving weight loss supplements or herbal remedies to your child. Many claims made by these products are not true. Some supplements can have serious side effects.
Weight loss drugs are not recommended for children.
Bariatric surgery is currently being performed for some children, but only after they've stopped growing.
Kristen Nadeau is an Endocrinologist and a Pediatric Endocrinologist in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dr. Nadeau has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Obesity in Children. She is also highly rated in 9 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Obesity in Children, Type 2 Diabetes T2D, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and Obesity. She is licensed to treat patients in Colorado. Dr. Nadeau is currently accepting new patients.
Nicola Santoro is in Campobasso, Italy. Santoro is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Obesity in Children. She is also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Obesity in Children, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Congenital Hyperinsulinism, and Obesity.
Sonia Caprio is an Endocrinologist and a Pediatric Endocrinologist in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Caprio has been practicing medicine for over 44 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Obesity in Children. She is also highly rated in 6 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Obesity in Children, Congenital Hyperinsulinism, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes T2D. She is licensed to treat patients in Connecticut. Dr. Caprio is currently accepting new patients.
A child who is overweight or has obesity is more likely to be overweight or have obesity as an adult. Children with obesity are now developing health problems that used to be seen only in adults. When these problems begin in childhood, they often become more severe when the child becomes an adult.
Children with obesity are at risk for developing these health problems:
Girls with obesity are more likely not to have regular menstrual periods.
Children with obesity often have low self-esteem. They are more likely to be teased or bullied, and they may have a hard time making friends.
Published Date: August 10, 2021
Published By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 05/23/2022.
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