Obesity in Children Health (cont.)

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Childhood Obesity Causes

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Any patient who regularly consumes more calories than needed will gain weight. If this is not reversed, the patient will become obese over time. Consumption of just 100 kilocalories (the equivalent of 8 ounces of soft drink) above daily requirements will typically result in a 10-pound weight gain over one year. Many different factors contribute to this imbalance between calorie intake and consumption.

  • Genetic factors
    • Obesity tends to run in families.
    • A child with an obese parent, brother, or sister is more likely to become obese.
    • Genetics alone does not cause obesity. Obesity will occur when a child eats more calories than he or she uses.
  • Dietary habits
    • The dietary habits of children and teenagers have shifted away from healthy foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) to a much greater reliance on fast food, processed snack foods, and sugary drinks.
    • These foods tend to be high in fat and/or calories and low in many other nutrients.
    • Several patterns are associated with obesity. Unhealthy habits include eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework, or drinking sodas during sedentary activities (like at the movies or watching TV).
  • Socioeconomic status
    • Families with low incomes or nonworking parents are more likely to eat excessive calories for activity level.
  • Physical inactivity
    • The popularity of television, computers, and video games has translated into an increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyle for many children and teenagers in developed countries like the U.S.
    • Children and teenagers in the United States spend, on average, over three hours daily watching television. Not only does this form of recreation use little energy (calories), it also encourages snacking and sipping.
    • Fewer than half of children in the United States have a parent who engages in regular physical exercise.
    • Only one-third of children in the United States have daily physical education at school.
    • Parents' busy schedules and even fears about public safety prevent many children and teenagers from taking part in sports, dance, or other activity programs after school. Moreover, some schools close their campuses to students and their families after hours due to potential liability risks.
  • Although specific medical conditions can cause pediatric obesity, these are very rare. They include hormone or other chemical imbalances and inherited disorders of metabolism. Children who exhibit normal linear growth typically do not have these conditions associated with pediatric obesity.
  • Certain medications can cause weight gain by altering how the body processes food or stores fat.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/9/2014

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