Causes of Obesity In Children, Toddlers and Teens

The childhood obesity and the number of overweight children is increasing rapidly like an epidemic; the fact is that obesity in children has increased by more than 50 percent in the last two decades. Do you have an obese child?

Obesity as bad as Chain Smoking for Teens. Obese teenage boys are as likely to die young similar to those who smoke more than half a pack of cigarettes a day, a Swedish Karolinska Institute study reported in Feb 2009? The normal-weight heavy smokers and the non-smoking obese individuals have exactly the same risk,? revealed the study.

International Epidemic of Child Obesity
One in every 5 children in USA is overweight while every 4th child is overweight in Australia. In USA, prevalence of obese children (Ages 6 to 11) at the 95th percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) in 1999 to 2000 was 15.3%. If the parents do not control, this number of childhood obesity, teen obesity and overweight children will grow significantly in near future. How to control childhood obesity

Obese Kids Risk Thyroid Damage

Obese children may be damaging their thyroids, creating a vicious cycle of metabolism and overweight, Italian researchers Giorgio Radetti of the Regional Hospital of Bolzano reported on 4 Dec 2008. According to Radetti, the obesity may cause inflammation damaging the thyroid. The researchers found an association between body mass index and thyroid hormone levels.

Definition of Obesity in Children & Toddlers

The overweight children are those who weigh 20 percent more than their ideal weight. The obese children are those who weigh 40 percent or more above their ideal weight.

The vulnerable period to start excess weight gain in toddlers is 3 and 4 years of their age. So the children of this age must get an hour of active play each day along with five fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Stephen Daniels of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to identify overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest two levels of overweight: (a) the 85th percentile (BMI of 25), an "at risk" or reference level, and (b) the 95th percentile (BMI of 25), the obesity level. Note that the 95th percentile corresponds to a BMI of 30, which is considered obesity in adults.

The Causes

The main causes of children becoming overweight (i.e. childhood obesity and teenage obesity) are lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, genetic reasons, or a combination of these. Obesity develops when the energy intake exceeds energy expenditure from physical activity.

With the advent of electronic revolution, children and teens now remain glued to TVs, electronic games, videos, and DVDs for most of the time and devote little time in outdoor activities. Along with this they eat a lot of junk foods loaded with fat, cholesterol, and sugar. This a very good recipe for gaining weight.

The Journal of Law and Economics reports in November 2008 that banning fast food advertisements from children?s television programs would reduce the number of overweight children in the US by 18% and decrease the number of overweight teens by 14%.

Only 2 hours are recommenced for a child to watch TV each day. Two recent studies reported in the Journal of Pediatrics (2005) reported that every extra hour of weekend TV at age 5 increased by 7% the chances of being obese at age 30. Also 11 year old girls who watched TV more than 2 hours in a day were more than twice as likely to be overweight as girls who watched less.

The Baby body mass index value can help you determine if your child is overweight.

USDA in April 2005 released it's interactive dietary guidelines, My pyramid based on a new food pyramid. The old food pyramid recommended one food size for all people without consideration on exercise, so many children today are faced with weight problems. See details on Mypyramid for kids at

How much fat for Children and adolescents?

Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Limit on ghee which is high in saturated fat.

Obesity Facts on Child Obesity

A study (2005) on feeding Infants & Toddlers by Gerber Products Co, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. revealed that the eating habits that are fueling an epidemic of obesity are starting in the crib. Note what US infants and toddlers eat daily.


    Number of Children Eating
    9 - 11
months old
    9 - 11
months old
French Fries9%21%
Hot Dogs, Sausage or Becon7%25%
Sweetened Beverages4%23%

If you look at the fat, sugar and cholesterol contents of these food items, you will know why our children are becoming overweight. [You can find these values in nutrition and cholesterol pages.] You can always train your children to eat healthy. Swap these junk foods with healthy foods. When your children are young, they depend on you for guidance for foods. You can stop them becoming overweight. Read for healthy food swaps for kids.

While swaping foods, keep in mind that low-fat is always not good. Read the food labels. A low fat food may be loaded with sugars. A food may be rich in calcium or fibers but high in sugars, or high in iron but low in fibers. In a recent (2005) survey in Australia, only about 40 (out of 100) breakfast cereals were found healthy for children and adults.

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