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Childhood Obesity: Causes and Risk Factors

Dr. Junaid Jahangir Abbasi

2 min read

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It’s a fact – children with soft fatty cheeks do look cuter and more adorable than those without. Many parents overfeed their children without giving a second thought and it is generally considered that children who weigh more are healthier. However, this is not right!.

Children who put on too much weight early on are at high risk of becoming obese. Childhood obesity is a serious health condition. It can put your child at risk of developing diseases that once occurred only in adults such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and high blood cholesterol levels.

It is important that you give your child a balanced and nutritious diet and also stop them from becoming couch potatoes by encouraging exercise and physical sporting activities. Overweight and obesity can harm them in not just one but in a multitude of ways – physically, psychologically, and socially.

To treat childhood obesity, the whole family should adopt a healthy lifestyle that sets an example and makes it easier for children to follow it. Early treatment and prevention of childhood obesity can help protect today and tomorrow for your child.

What Are the Causes of Childhood Obesity?

The primary cause of childhood obesity is eating too much and doing too little physical activity. When your child eats a fat-rich diet or fast foods more than once a week and also over-snacks on junk food, it can lead to weight gain. However, this may not be their fault.

There are factors beyond your child’s control that influence what and how much they eat – environmental, social, genetic, and physiological. These factors play a key role in causing childhood obesity.

What are the Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity?

Factors that can put your child at risk of developing obesity are:

Diet

Consuming a diet rich in fats and sugars such as fried foods, baked goods, vending machine goods, candy, cakes, and desserts can put your child at risk of developing obesity. Moreover, drinking sweetened carbonated beverages also make them gain weight.

Lack of Physical Activity

Physical activity is how your body expends the energy gained from eating food. When this excess energy is not spent, it can cause weight gain. Children who do not do much physical activity can become overweight or obese. 

Family history

Genes play a significant role in determining your body weight. If anyone in the family, especially parents, are obese then the child may also be overweight or obese.  Therefore, if weight and obesity runs in the family and your child has a genetic tendency of gaining weight, you should encourage them to be physically active from a young age and build healthy eating habits.

Psychological Factors

Children who are under stress due to psychological tension end up eating more and more to divert themselves, eventually gaining excess weight and becoming obese. Relieving any undue stress and focusing on mental health can help overcome the psychological factors of obesity.

Socioeconomic Factors

People who live in places where there is a lack of fresh or healthy food options or not enough open spaces for physical activities, or engage in a sedentary lifestyle, these socioeconomic factors have an effect on weight gain and can play a role in your child’s obesity as well.

Certain Medications

Not all, but certain medications can lead to weight gain. These include some anti-diabetes medications, antipsychotic medicines, antidepressants, blood pressure-reducing medicines, and others. 

The Bottom Line

Childhood obesity can be dangerous, leading to various complications. Therefore, you should pay close attention to your child’s health from a young age. Make sure they eat a healthy balanced diet and stay physically active. In case of excess weight gain, always consult a specialist to guide you regarding your child’s weight progress.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Junaid Jahangir Abbasi - Author Dr. Junaid Jahangir is a pediatrician based in Islamabad. He has an MBBS, FCPS, and more than 7 years of work experience in managing and treating child health. For advice or consultation, please feel free to reach out to him through oladoc.
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