Long-term Effects of Childhood Obesity and How to Prevent It

Obesity is growing at an alarming rate, but one of the fastest growing segments of obesity in America is in children. The long-term effects of childhood obesity include reduced lifespan and a decreased quality of life, along with other negative impacts.

It’s also common for childhood obesity to carry into adulthood. Roughly 25% of adults who are obese were obese as children, and one study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight from ages 10-15 years old were obese at age 25.

Childhood Obesity Facts and Statistics

Chart that shows the increased rate of childhood obesity from 1971 to 2012.

Check the full report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years; at these current growth rates, childhood obesity and obesity in the overall population can become a pandemic.

In 1980, obesity occurred in 6.5% of children aged 6 to 11; in 2008, obesity occurred in 19.6% of children aged 6 to 11. In 1980, obesity occurred in 5% of young adults aged 12 to 19; in 2008, obesity occurred in 18.1% of young adults aged 12 to 19.

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Obesity Affects Children Physically, Socially and Emotionally

Children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal-weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, hopelessness, depression, lower self-esteem, social anxiety disorder and other social disorders.

In addition, children with obesity are at a higher risk for developing other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease, metabolic syndrome and several types of cancer.

Factors That May Cause Childhood Obesity:

  • Genetics
  • Metabolism
  • Eating and physical activity behaviors
  • Environmental factors
  • Social and individual psychology

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity

There are several notions about the rate of growth in obesity and the causal factors associated with it. But it isn’t hard to see that fast food companies, gaming consoles and the internet have a direct impact on childhood obesity.

Over time, consuming more energy from foods and beverages than the body uses for healthy functioning, growth and physical activity leads to extra weight gain. Energy imbalance is a key factor in the high rate of childhood obesity in America and globally. But reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity will help children lose weight.

A Healthy Environment Can Help Children Avoid Obesity

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage and entertainment industries.

Changes in the environments where children spend their time — like homes, schools, and community settings — can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight by making it easier to eat nutritious foods, get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, watch less television, and eat fewer foods and beverages that are high in added sugars or solid fats.

Physical Activity is a Core Part of Preventing Childhood Obesity

It is advised if your child is struggling with obesity, or if you have children who are overweight, to encourage your child to engage in physical activities. The internet, television and gaming have increased the rate of sedentary lifestyles more than ever before.

Increasing the number of calories burned is one key to the solution. Children and adolescents need to be doing at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, such as walking, running, or playing sports that involve running or walking.

Some physical activity is better suited for children than adolescents. For example, children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. Younger children usually strengthen their muscles when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym or climb trees.

As children grow older and become adolescents, they may start structured weight programs. For example, they may do these types of programs along with their football or basketball team practice. Some may not have luck in losing significant weight or physically not be able to participate in sports or do a strenuous physical activity.

Youth sports groups, after-school activities, clubs and gyms can help children increase physical activities and their confidence levels. Some other popular options including weight loss programs (like Weight Watchers) or youth camps for children. But exercise is only half the answer.

What Children Eat is as Important as Excercise to Limit Weight Gain

The far more obvious solution is to monitor what children’s eating habits are. Nearly 30% of all children consume at least one fast food meal per day. With fast food chains known for high saturated fat and unhealthy meals, it’s easy to see why children are becoming obese at earlier ages.

  • In 2011–2012, just over one-third of children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day.
  • In 2011–2012, children and adolescents consumed on average 12.4% of their daily calories from fast food restaurants.
  • Caloric intake from fast foods was higher in adolescents aged 12–19 years than in children aged 2–11 years.
  • Non-Hispanic Asian children had a significantly lower caloric intake from fast food compared with non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic children.
  • No significant differences in caloric intake from fast food were noted by sex, poverty status, or weight status.

Consumption of fast food has been linked to weight gain in adults. Fast food has also been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality in children and adolescents.

From 1994 through 2006, caloric intake from fast food increased from 10% to 13% among children aged 2–18 years. This report presents the most recent data on the percentage of calories consumed from fast food among U.S. children by sex, age group, race and Hispanic origin, poverty status, and weight status.

Some Children Have the Option to Undergo Weight Loss Surgery

Another emerging trend in childhood obesity is weight loss surgery. While some children and teenagers may not be candidates for weight loss surgery, many will be. The gastric sleeve is the perfect tool for them to turn their lives around and regain their sense of independence, self-confidence, happiness, and health.

Many obese children and teenagers are candidates for weight loss surgery. Our surgeons have performed thousands of weight loss surgeries. With the options now available to them for a safe surgery, we are seeing a very popular trend with more obese children and teens coming to us for help than ever before.

Facts About Obesity in Low-income Families

From 2000–2010, the overall prevalence of obesity among low-income children in The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service, increased significantly from 14.0% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2004 and to 15.9% in 2010; during 2010–2014, the overall prevalence decreased significantly to 14.5%.

  • Among non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, the prevalence of obesity among young low-income children increased significantly during 2000–2004, then decreased significantly during 2010–2014. Among Asians/Pacific Islanders, the prevalence decreased significantly during 2000–2010.
  • Among the 54 WIC State Agencies in states and U.S. territories with data for 2000 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity increased in 48 (89%); among these increases, 38 (70%) were statistically significant.
  • Among the 54 WIC State Agencies with data for 2004 and 2010, the prevalence of obesity increased in 26 (48%), including 17 (31%) that were statistically significant; the prevalence decreased in 27 (37%) State Agencies, including 20 (74%) that were statistically significant.
  • Among the 56 WIC State Agencies with data for 2010 and 2014, only 9 (16%) experienced an increase in obesity prevalence, including 4 (7%) in which the increase was statistically significant. The prevalence of obesity decreased in 45 (80%) State Agencies, including 34 (61%) in which the difference was statistically significant.