Obesity in childhood: Causes and easy ways to prevent

Obesity in childhood – The problem of obesity is becoming more relevant every year. Overweight and associated complications occur not only in adults, but also in children, and the number of cases is growing every year.  According to the latest data, in Russia every tenth child is overweight, and in the USA – every fifth.  How to identify the problem in time, cope with it, and can obesity in childhood be prevented?

Obesity in childhood
Obesity in childhood

Obesity in childhood: Current Situation

We live in an era where food is not just “fuel”, a source of energy and nutrients for the vital functions of the body, but mainly a stimulator of positive emotions.

We eat up stress, celebrate joyful events with “something delicious,” and share meals with other people as a sign of sympathy. Huge corporations are working to make food more and more enjoyable for us. You can call gluttony a rapidly gaining momentum, and this would not be such a strong exaggeration. It is not surprising that in such conditions the number of children suffering from obesity and overweight is growing from year to year.

According to the World Health Organization, if this trend continues, then by 2025 the current figures will increase by 70 million.

Just imagine – 70 million children are already at risk and doomed in absentia to serious health problems and are deprived of all the delights of childhood.

In the meantime, obesity in childhood and adolescents in general, and obesity in boys and girls of different age categories separately – remains a popular topic of numerous talk shows and a problem that doctors and scientists around the world are working on solving.

Causes of Obesity in childhood, Infants, and Adolescents

First of all, obesity in childhood is usually divided into two categories: primary (alimentary) and secondary .

To combat obesity in childhood, it is necessary to know the root cause of the pathology, to understand what factors can act as catalysts for the disease, in order to track them in time and prevent the development of the disease.

Primary obesity

In the case of primary obesity, its main causes are:

  • if the diet of the family in which the child lives consists of high-calorie foods rich in fats and fast carbohydrates;
  • if it is customary in the family not to leave the table until the plates are empty;
  • if the child is stimulated to eat lunch with a seductive dessert, which he receives after being satiated with the “first” and “second”;
  • if manipulation in the spirit of “spoon for mom” is the norm, then the likelihood that such a child will experience obesity on their own experience will increase with each meal.


Most often, this reason goes hand in hand with the aforementioned nutritional imbalance.

Physical inactivity is a sedentary lifestyle in which physical activity is minimized.

Secondary obesity

Secondary obesity is a consequence of another serious illness or hereditary predisposition. Among the pathologies that provoke obesity, there are:

  1. The presence of gestational diabetes in the mother during gestation
  2. Obese parents conceiving a child
  3. Congenital genetic diseases such as Cohen’s syndrome, Lawrence-Moon-Biedl, Prader-Willia.
  4. Various endocrinopathies, including congenital, dysfunction of the thyroid gland, pituitary and gonads (hypothyroidism, Itsenko-Cushing’s syndrome).

Also, the cause of obesity in childhood under one year old can be the transition from breastfeeding to artificial, and adolescents are prone to eating disorders leading to obesity against the background of hormonal processes and psycho- emotional disorders.

If you notice signs of excess weight in your child, then do not debug the obesity treatment!

Obesity in childhood

Obesity in childhood is divided into 4 stages :

  1. Obesity I Grade – in which the child’s body weight exceeds the norm by 15-24%
  2. Obesity II Grade – the child’s body weight exceeds the norm by 25-49%
  3. Obesity III Grade – the child’s body weight is 50–99% outside the norm.
  4. Obesity IV Grade – an extreme degree of obesity, in which the child’s body weight exceeds the permissible norm by more than 100%.

Children and adolescents of the following age groups are at risk :

  • Young children – from birth to three years;
  • Preschoolers – from three to seven years old;
  • Adolescents – These include children between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

Why is overweight in a child dangerous?

The more extra pounds a child “carries”, the harder it is for the body. The load on the cardiovascular and respiratorysystems increases, the musculoskeletal system suffers. Regular overeating contributes to the development of digestive problems, pancreatitis and cholecystitis.

Grade 1 obesity often seems mild because the baby does not look fat. However, even this can lead to:

  • curvature of the spine;
  • high blood pressure;
  • headaches;
  • gastritis.

Grade 2 obesity becomes the cause of more significant violations:

  • excessive sweating;
  • hormonal disruptions;
  • acne and acne (in adolescence).

With the development of 3 Grade of obesity, children appear:

  • joint diseases;
  • violation of puberty and reproductive function;
  • femoral and inguinal hernia;
  • increased risk of diabetes mellitus and arterial hypertension.

Grade 4 obesity is an extremely dangerous condition. Even a child can develop such serious illnesses as diabetes, atherosclerosis, hemorrhoids, angina pectoris, liver failure, etc. The risk of breathing disorders during sleep (sleep apnea) increases. In advanced cases, the ability to move independently is lost, since the spine and joints cannot support the weight of their own body.

We must not forget about the psychological complexes that are promoted by overweight in a child. At school, children can be bullied, and the inability to play fully with their peers only exacerbates the situation. In adolescence, this can result in complexes.

Methods for diagnosing obesity in childhood

And yet, for many parents, the question remains of what is considered the beginning of an incipient disease, and what is a safe “childish roundness”, which will eventually “dissolve” or “go into growth.”

The very first step is to check the ratio of the height and weight of the child using a special table. If the indicators go beyond the established norm, then as a second step, it is recommended to go for a consultation with a doctor.

Medical diagnostics consists of taking anamnesis, anthropometry and the appointment of additional examinations.  To find out the causes of obesity and the choice of treatment, it is recommended to contact a pediatric endocrinologist.

Based on the results of the examination and examination, if necessary, the doctor can send for examination to other pediatric specialists:

  • pediatrician
  • gastroenterologist
  • geneticist
  • cardiologist
  • gynecologist
  • neurologist
  • psychotherapist.

Consequences of obesity in childhood

If you start the disease and allow it to develop, then in addition to obesity itself, children may face its negative consequences:

In addition, obesity is considered to be the cause of the development of some cancers.

Prevention of obesity in childhood

To reduce the risk of obesity in infants and young children, prevention measures such as mandatory breastfeeding for the first six months of life and alternating breast milk with solid foods during the period of complementary feeding should be followed. It is important that the baby’s diet contains a variety of foods, while the content of salt, sugar and fat in these products should be minimal.

For older children and adolescents, the following preventive measures are shown:

  1. setting restrictions on the use of fatty foods, fast food, starchy foods, sweet and salty foods;
  2. teaching the child to consume vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains;
  3. regular physical activity: walking, outdoor games, exercise, dancing, sports activities, physiotherapy exercises, including swimming.

Treatment of obesity in childhood

Treatment of obesity in childhood, regardless of its cause, is a complex and lengthy process that requires the participation of not only doctors, but also the child’s parents. It is important that each family member understands the importance of all prescribed activities and follows the instructions of the nutritionist and other professionals. It is important for parents and all family members to set the right example and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Current clinical guidelines for the treatment of grade 1 and 2 obesity in childhood include primarily diet and physical activity. A child’s metabolism is much more intense than that of an adult, so adherence to basic nutritional rules is the key to success.

The diet for an overweight child is built according to the following rules:

  • a minimum of sweet and fatty foods, salt;
  • regular use of clean water in sufficient quantities;
  • fractional meals in small portions;
  • last meal 3 hours before bedtime;
  • exclusion of fast food, soda, chips, etc.

The child’s menu for obesity includes dairy products without sugar of medium fat content, baked, boiled or steamed dishes from lean meat, poultry or fish, cereals and sweet fruits in moderation, vegetables without restrictions.

Physical activity will not only accelerate weight loss, but also tighten the skin and strengthen the muscles. The set of exercises is built with the participation of an exercise therapy doctor and takes into account the initial body weight of the child, his age and wishes. Whether you’re playing sports, competing, daily gymnastics or strength training, movement should be fun.

Treatment of severe obesity, in addition to sports and diet, includes medications, correction of hormonal and other disorders. Operations to reduce the volume of the stomach and other bariatric surgery techniques are allowed only from the age of 18.

A nutritionist is involved in the treatment of obesity.

Do you still have questions or suspicions of a health problem in your child? A children’s endocrinologist will help you figure it out and give the necessary recommendations for treatment or prevention.

Dr. Ashwani Kumar is highly skilled and experienced in treating major and minor general medicine diseases.