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Childhood Obesity: Causes and Effects

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 22, 2023

Childhood Obesity: Causes and Effects

Childhood obesity is a complex health issue that requires parental attention and, in some instances, even medical intervention. It happens when a child’s weight is way above normal for their height and age. According to experts, childhood obesity causes are the same as those in adults, but its effects may be more encompassing. Here’s what you need to know about childhood obesity.

What causes childhood obesity?

Before we fully understand the effects of childhood obesity, we must first discuss its causes. A child may be obese due to the following factors:


Diet is, in no doubt, one of the primary factors for childhood obesity. And while it’s easy to pinpoint that kids with obesity may be eating unhealthy foods, the reasons behind the food choices may be more complicated.

  • Busy schedule: For instance, when parents have tight plans for work and chores, they may opt for “quick and easy” meals or fast food than home-cooked meals. Remember that these foods may have a lot of unhealthy fats and added sugars.
  • Inadequate income: It’s also possible that the family doesn’t earn much; thus, they purchase less expensive alternatives such as instant noodles.
  • Portions: Portion sizes also play a significant role. Sometimes, parents forget that children’s dietary requirement is different, so they give them the same portions as those of adults.
  • Eating habits: Another potential factor is eating habits or behavior. Not having a scheduled time for meals and giving food as a reward for good behavior may unintentionally result in unhealthy eating habits, and eventually, childhood obesity.
  • childhood obesity causes and effects

    Physical activity

    We cannot talk about the causes and effects of childhood obesity without explaining physical activity.

    These days, children are more sedentary. The amount of time they spend outdoors playing and getting physically active has significantly decreased due to stationary activities involving gadgets.

    As they don’t burn calories, children become more prone to weight gain.

    Family history

    Finally, we cannot discount the fact that family history and genetics also come into play.

    Some children are born with slower metabolic rates than others. Furthermore, experts relate that children whose relatives have obesity are more likely to develop it, too.

    Family background can also trigger childhood obesity. According to experts, if a family experiences distress, the child may be affected. This may lead them to overeat to cope with stress.

    Effects of childhood obesity

    Regardless of causes, the effects of childhood obesity in a child’s life can be profound.

    This is because kids are still developing, and the consequences of excess weight can influence their physical, social, and emotional well-being.

    Immediate and future health risks

    Obese children may experience the following health risks:

    • High blood pressure
    • High blood cholesterol
    • Respiratory issues, such as asthma
    • Musculoskeletal problems like joint pain
    • Gallstones
    • Fatty liver
    • Heartburn
    • Increased risk of insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance
    • When left unmanaged, childhood obesity could lead to adult obesity, which puts them at risk of many diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

      Poor academic performance

      Regardless of causes, the effects of childhood obesity may impact academic performance.

      According to studies, overweight or obese children are four times more likely to report academic problems. This is especially the case with children who constantly miss classes, due to health risks such as asthma.

      Social and emotional concerns

      Reports describe obesity as one of the most “stigmatizing” and “least acceptable” conditions. Overweight and obese children may experience teasing or bullying, which may affect their self-esteem.

      Without guidance, these social and emotional risks may progress to anxiety and depression.

      Key takeaways

      Understanding the causes and effects of childhood obesity helps parents intervene and prevent the condition and its health risks.

      If you suspect that your child has excess weight, the best course of action is to consult a pediatrician. They will help you find out the cause of the problem and formulate an individualized plan to help your child achieve a healthy weight.

      Learn more about Childhood Obesity here. 


      Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

      Medically reviewed by

      Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


      Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 22, 2023

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