Childhood Obesity

Worldwide, there is an increasing prevalence of childhood obesity. Your child is obese when they weigh more than the recommended weight for his or her height. Children can develop obesity due to several reasons and similarly obesity can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems. Unfortunately, childhood obesity is on the rise, and it could have harmful long-term effects, even affecting their adult life.  Parents and family members can play an important role in preventing and managing childhood obesity.  In this blog, I am going to discuss the underlying reasons for childhood obesity and how to prevent this serious and debilitating condition. 

What are the factors that lead to childhood obesity?

There are several risk factors which lead to Childhood obesity. Some are personal variables, such as 

  • Reduced physical activity
  • Recurrent illness (eg: Viral fever, Tonsillitis)
  • Stress
  • Unhealthy food habits
  • Socio-environmental factors including your neighbourhood, school etc.
  • Social media influence & bullying at school.

The risk of childhood obesity may also be impacted by food technology and marketing strategies used by the food industry. In addition, children may also gain weight due to cultural influence and societal pressure.

Some of the risk factors for being overweight or obese may not be changeable like the genetics of the child. However, being aware of these risk factors can help the child as well as their parents to take action to achieve a healthy weight and reduce their risk of obesity-related health issues like heart disease, prediabetes, diabetes and cancer.

Currently, the problem of childhood obesity is on the rise, and a number of reasons contribute to this epidemic. The following factors have contributed the the sudden surge in the prevalence of childhood obesity:

  • Easy access to cheap and large quantities of processed food.
  • Lack of outdoor activities, 
  • Impact of social media on mental health
  • Increased screen time including binge watching
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Energy-dense drinks like sugary Coke Cola.
  • Medication for several physical and mental health disorders. 


Stress at School and at home

Make sure everyone in your family is happy, especially children. Even short periods of stress can have an impact on the brain and cause the body to produce hormones like cortisol, which regulate hunger pangs and energy levels. Because of the stress children may consume more and the excess energy will be stored as fat in the liver as a result of these hormonal changes. To keep the mind calm and happy is also very important for the child.

Medical conditions

Weight gain is also a side effect of some medical diseases, including metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes. In order for a person’s weight to get near to or into the normal range, certain medical issues must be treated. So if there are sudden changes in a child’s weight please consult a doctor to prevent the consequences in the future.


Several medications increase weight by interfering with the chemical signals that alert your brain to hunger. They consist of:

  • Antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers used to treat excessive blood pressure and antipsychotics
  • Glucocorticoids are frequently employed in the management of autoimmune illnesses.
  • Children with type 1 diabetes take insulin to manage their blood sugar levels.

Being aware that obesity is a complicated disorder influenced by many different factors, and addressing these factors through healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent and manage childhood obesity.

If a child experiences weight gain while taking one of these medications, consult a doctor. Find out if there are any variations of the same medication that can treat your disease but won’t have as much of an impact on a child’s weight.


A lack of exercise and bad eating might be influenced by the environment. Physical surroundings include your home, school or any structures you use for study room or recreation, as well as any open areas and streets that are important for the child. Being overweight and childhood obesity can be influenced by the types of restaurants they used to go to and the type of food they prefer there is very important.

According to studies, having access to sidewalks and green spaces can encourage children and adults to engage in more physical activity, and grocery stores and farmer’s markets can encourage them to eat healthier foods. On the other hand, residents of areas with a higher density of fast food outlets, inaccessible or nonexistent walkways, and lack of bathing facilities are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Why do our children not exercise?

A high body mass index  (BMI) has been linked to a sedentary lifestyle. There is a bidirectional link between obesity and lack of physical activity. An obese child does not feel energetic enough to go and play or exercise as the child gets tired easily. The child tries to avoid it as his or her exercise tolerance is poor. Secondly, the child feels isolated and shy and avoids going to exercise. This is more often encountered by the child in schools and playgrounds. Bullying and discrimination of a child with weight problems contribute to underconfidence and poor self-esteem. This in turn prevents a child from engaging in physical activity.

Lack of exercise is also contributed by lack of time. Most children spend evenings either doing their homework or spending time with their electronic gadgets.

(TV, computer, video games, or tablet).

It is recommended that your child is involved in any physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day, preferably aerobic exercise. Encourage them to go and play outdoor games with their peer group.

“Like parents, like children” 

This idiom means that children are influenced or impressed by their parents. So it is important as parents to set an example. You need to also play with them or get involved with them in physical activity. For example when you take your child to a swimming pool, please ensure you take your swimsuit and start swimming with your child. This will not only help your health but also encourage your children to be active. The majority of adults are advised to exercise for at least 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day. It is known if they would be able to reach 1hr a day helpful in weight loss. Adults are also recommended to do muscle-strengthening exercises for the large muscle groups two or more days a week, as these activities provide extra health benefits. 

Childhood Obesity and Its Health Consequences

Obese children are more likely to acquire health complications than their peers who maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are 2 types, one is physical health consequences and another one is social and psychological well-being. Physical health consequence includes Diabetes, heart disease, and asthma are just a few of the dangers and there are more.


Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which your body can not adequately metabolize glucose. Diabetes can cause vision loss, nerve damage, and renal failure. Overweight children and adults are more prone to develop type 2 diabetes. Healthy meal patterns and lifestyle adjustments, on the other hand, may be able to reverse the illness.

Heart Problems

In obese children, elevated cholesterol and hypertension increase the risk of eventual heart disease. Cholesterol and blood pressure levels may rise if you eat foods high in fat and salt. Heart attack and stroke are two possible cardiovascular disease consequences.


Asthma is a condition in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed over time. Obesity is the most prevalent comorbidity (a condition in which two or more illnesses occur in almost the same person at the same time), but researchers aren’t clear on how the two components are linked. According to a previous study published in the journal Asthma Research and Practice, roughly 38 per cent of persons with asthma also have obesity in the United States. Obesity may be a risk factor for more severe asthma in some, but not all obese adults, according to the same study.

Disorders of Sleeping

Obese children and teenagers are more likely to experience sleep problems such as heavy snoring and sleep apnea. Excess weight in the neck region can narrow their airways.

Pain in the Joints

Weight gain can also cause joint stiffness, discomfort, and reduced flexion in children. In many circumstances, weight reduction might help you get rid of joint pain.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a type of liver disease (NAFLD). Fatty deposits grow up in the liver as a result of this condition, which normally has no indications. NAFLD can cause scarring and damage to the liver.

Social and psychological well-being:

Obese children may be teased or bullied by their peer group or friends. This can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and a higher risk of sadness and anxiety.

Mental Health

If childhood Obesity is not managed well they are likely to encounter mental health problems like depression, low self-esteem, under confidence, & social incompatibility.

How to help your child’s eating habits and health?

The risk of being overweight and obese may increase as a result of several poor eating habits. Which includes snacking, emotional eating, an unhealthy diet, sugary foods & drinks and so on. Overall that leads to overconsumption of calories during mealtime: Your calorie requirements will change depending on your sex, age, and level of physical activity.  

Also, a timetable with a note for Parents as well as children in the family might be helpful and it offers advice on how to cut down on screen time, instead of screen time what are the other options available for them to spend time with family including games and other activities to be discussed.

Discussing a meal plan with children might be very helpful. So that they avoid other junk food or takeaway and prefer home food. So discussing a meal plan with the family for next week or the next day will be more helpful and consistent, all of them come to know about balanced meals and all of them can cook together too. So no need to worry about how many calories children should consume. If everyone in the home follows the same food and explains the value of each food they will be more aware of healthy food and a balanced lifestyle and will follow the same even if they go out.

Over-consumption of saturated fat is also an unhealthy eating practice. Consuming foods high in added sugar is bad for your health. Try to keep your daily intake of added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. So please be cautious of all these things.

Please arrange a consultation with an endocrinologist to rule out any underlying hormone problems. Thereafter your child would need a multidisciplinary team of experts to support his or her weight management journey.

What are the tips to prevent and overcome childhood obesity?

Obesity in children is a severe health issue that can cause a variety of issues in later life. Yet, it can be avoided and overcome with a few lifestyle adjustments. The following advice can help to prevent and treat childhood obesity:

  • Promoting a nutritious diet is important since it can help to prevent and treat childhood obesity. Encourage your kid to consume a range of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Restrict high-calorie foods and beverages, including fast food, sugary beverages, and other high-calorie snacks with poor nutritional value. Provide healthy substitutes instead, such as fruits, vegetables, fresh juices and low-fat dairy products.
  • Genetics; Some children are genetically prone to being overweight. Over 15 genes have been identified as having an impact on obesity. According to studies, genetics may be more of a factor for obese individuals than for overweight ones. Making healthy lifestyle adjustments can help to reduce the risk of obesity in children who are genetically predisposed to it.
  • Try to avoid unnecessary medication because several medications increase weight by interfering with the chemical signals that alert your brain which leads to hunger. 
  • Encourage your youngster to engage in physical activity for at least an hour each day. Playing outside, riding a bike, or taking part in sports are a few examples of what falls under this category.
  • The amount of time your child spends in front of a screen should be limited. TV, video games, and computers are all included in this. Promote their physical activity and other interests.
  • Making healthy decisions as a family should include meal planning and preparing nutritious meals together. This may contribute to fostering an environment that is conducive to healthy living.
  • Seek a specialist: If your child is battling with obesity, consult a qualified nutritionist or a doctor. They can offer direction and encouragement to encourage your child to make better decisions.

Keep in mind that combating and preventing childhood obesity requires time and commitment, but it’s worth it because of the benefits. You may assist your child in leading a healthy and happy life by encouraging healthy habits and creating a pleasant and supportive environment.

Parents and guardians must pay attention to this severe health issue and take appropriate action. In this blog, we have discussed several factors that can contribute to childhood obesity, including genetics, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, environmental factors, sleep deprivation, and medication.  Yet it’s crucial to keep in mind that obesity is a complicated problem, and no one thing causes it entirely. The increased incidence of childhood obesity may be attributed to a combination of these factors as well as other sociological and economic variables. Parents and other adults who are responsible for children can avoid childhood obesity and enhance their children’s general health and well-being by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as encouraging a balanced diet, frequent physical activity, enough sleep, and reducing sedentary activities.


Varsha Murugesan,
Senior Clinical Dietitian

The London Obesity Clinic/The Yorkshire Obesity Clinic specialises in Weight Loss, Complex Diabetes and Endocrine disorders across the UK with clinics at Harley Street in London, Spire Claremont in Sheffield and Nuffield in Leeds. We offer face to face and virtual consultations with our specialist clinical lead, Dr Rajeswaran, who has 25+ years experience in the field. We also offer screenings for prescription weight loss/weight management medications such as Wegovy injections (semaglutide) which are also suitable for children & Mounjaro injections (tirzepatide), bespoke weight management plans and a unique online weight loss plan for wellness and weight management. We support people with Obesity related medical conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver, Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Endocrine disorders like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, PCOS, Hirsutism, Adrenal Dysfunction, Menopause, Pituitary problems and Sexual Dysfunction. Get in touch to transform your life!

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