Childhood Obesity and the Effects It Has Later in Life


Childhood obesity is a worldwide epidemic, and the problem is surfacing earlier in life. Three decades ago, there were little overweight children, while today, 15% of children are obese (Jochum et al., 2022). The study also reveals that 12 to 15% of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Excess weight gain is connected to diabetes and depression in millions of children, preteens, and teens. Overweight or obese children severely impact their physical and mental health. Several things can cause childhood obesity, including overeating, genetics, and lack of exercise (Jochum et al., 2022). The study also reveals that doctors who diagnose and treat childhood obesity now recognize it as an illness. Obesity has a genetic component; however, not all children who sit in front of the television for hours are obese due to their parents’ genes. Some teenagers are overweight as a result of their lifestyle. Late-night eating, snacking, and other behavioral behaviors, for example, impact obesity advancement. Furthermore, dietary intake and nutrition are tightly linked to social and economic circumstances (Arteaga et al., 2018). Obesity in children also has a range of physical, mental, emotional, and social implications. Both early female development and delayed male development are connected to childhood obesity. It’s also been linked to many health problems, including metabolic, structural, and physiological abnormalities (Arteaga et al., 2018). Obese children are also more prone to mental health problems. Obese children may suffer from low self-esteem and social discrimination due to physical limits, feelings of isolation or loneliness, and bullying from classmates. Overfeeding an infant can negatively affect a child’s food perception, so good nutrition habits should start as soon as a child is born (Arteaga et al., 2018). This means that parents must monitor their child’s eating and drinking habits. Numerous elements contribute to the disease’s spread. Therefore this research will explore childhood obesity and the effects it has later in life and, at the same time, look at some treatment and preventive measures.

Causes of Childhood Obesity Literature Review

Arteaga et al. (2018) reveal that obesity is frequently caused by several reasons, the most prominent of which is overeating. According to the findings, Americans have grown accustomed to eating super-sized meals and having super-sized children with super-sized problems during the last fifteen years. This increase in binge eating has repercussions in many areas of a child’s life. Children have been encouraged to eat more unhealthy meals due to changes at school, for example. Cafeteria food is becoming increasingly fattening and nutritionally deficient (Arteaga et al., 2018). Many schools also have soda and candy vending machines. Fast-paced consumption is linked to increased fat and calorie intake and decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The percentage of fruits and fresh vegetables consumed by 6th graders declined significantly between 1990 and 1998. At least 30% of youngsters eat fast food at least once a day, consuming an additional 200 calories every meal and gaining 6 pounds of fat per year (Arteaga et al., 2018). Similarly, children should be protected from these detrimental impacts. On the other hand, these fast-food options make it harder for kids to maintain a healthy diet. If a person consumes too much daily energy, their weight will rise over time, and their risk of obesity will increase. Since the 1970s, it has been related to a higher daily calorie intake and fat buildup in children who consume sugar-sweetened beverages.

Garcia et al. (2019) suggest that lack of physical activity also causes obesity in children. Lack of physical activity is the third cause of childhood obesity. This lack of activity is due to a lack of physical education in schools and at home. There has been a drop in the amount of time given to physical activity at school and after school and a decrease in the growth of grass-root sports. Physical activity lowers a child’s risk of becoming overweight by at least 23% to 43%. Garcia et al. (2019) also add that playing video games and watching television increase the risk of obesity by 10% to 61 percent. In the twenty-first century, television, video games, and computer games have replaced traditional physical activities such as jogging, biking, and skating. It’s been proven that viewing too much television as a child raises the risk of being obese later in life, which could have long-term health and well-being effects. Garcia et al. (2019) also note that about a quarter of all 7 to 12-year-olds in the united states are overweight or obese because watching television encourages a sedentary lifestyle and actively pushes junk food to children. As a result of increased sedentary behavior, people spend time practicing physical activity has decreased. Even though empirical evaluation is complex, it is evident from previous studies that advertising’s effects should not be underestimated. Obesity can be avoided in children, and stress can be better managed by getting adequate exercise.

Sanyaolu et al. (2019) suggest that obesity in childhood has been linked to psychological traits like impulsivity, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and social aspects like social acceptance and social functioning. However, there is insufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship. As a result of these factors, many obese children develop behavioral and emotional issues. Obesity can also lead to psychological and social problems (Sanyaolu et al. (2019). A low socioeconomic status can lead to family stress and mental illness in a parent. Furthermore, parents may be unaware of, underestimate, or ignore their children’s psychological health issues. Mental health problems and eating habits are linked in a variety of ways. Some children, such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), overeat due to a lack of self-control and impulsivity, while others use emotional eating to cope with negative feelings (Sanyaolu et al., 2019). When people are stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is released, which is connected to an increase in food intake, a preference for high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt meals, and an increase in energy consumption. The gratifying impact of food can be described in part by dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the process. Low dopamine levels are connected to an increased desire for energy. Furthermore, obese youngsters exhibited worse self-esteem than their non-obese peers.

Finally, there is a considerable inherited component to childhood obesity. Dietz and Robinson (2008) suggest that according to the “thrifty gene theory,” genes that promote efficient energy metabolism in terms of energy use, fat storage, and appetite control have been selected for survival during times of famine. However, in today’s world, where food is abundant, and exercise is optional, these genes may have a part in the present obesity epidemic. Several genes with mutations that cause disordered eating behavior and high energy expenditure with a positive energy balance have been explored intensively (Dietz & Robinson, 2008). Even while most of the genetic diversity in BMI remains unresolved, it is unlikely that obesity is caused by only one gene. Obesity is a product of a person’s genetic makeup, but their surroundings determine their ability to live with it.

Effects of Childhood Obesity on Later Children’s Life

Obesity in children has long-term consequences for their physical and mental well-being and the financial well-being of their families. Some of these disorders become more pronounced as we get older, while others fade away (Dietz & Robinson, 2008). Children are vulnerable to bullying and stigma and the struggle with obesity. Childhood obesity and its related illnesses have a high societal cost.

Physical Health Consequences

Fat children have a higher chance of becoming obese adults. Obesity is more likely to persist in those with a higher BMI and older. Obesity damages several organs and metabolic systems, leading to significant health problems even in youth (Jochum et al., 2022). Pediatric obesity is linked to metabolic syndrome, with a higher BMI indicating a higher risk. Metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors, is connected to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Obese children are more prone to developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), including atherosclerosis, stroke, and coronary heart disease (Jochum et al., 2022). Obese children are more likely to produce snoring disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea due to extra fat around the neck. Obesity may make asthma and asthmatic attacks more likely in youngsters, but the reasons for this are uncertain. Obesity in youngsters can also cause problems with the musculoskeletal system. Weight increase can unnecessarily burden the musculoskeletal system, resulting in stiffness, pain, and skeletal anomalies such as hip, knee, and foot deformities (Herath et al., 2021). Youngsters appear to have lower bone density than adults when age and size are considered. Because of their compromised bone structure due to obesity or being overweight, they are more prone to fractures. Fat children and adolescents are more prone to become obese adults as adults. Childhood obesity has been associated with a 20% chance of adult obesity, whereas adolescent obesity has been linked to an 80% chance (Herath et al., 2021). Obesity-related morbidity and mortality may rise as the population of obese people grows. Chronic disorders like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, menstrual abnormalities, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and hypertension are becoming increasingly common among children and adolescents due to childhood and teenage obesity growth (Herath et al., 2021).

Psychosocial Consequences

Because of their low self-esteem, obese children are more likely to participate in dangerous behaviors like smoking and drinking. Children may experience depression as a result of their perception of social bias, in addition to poor self-esteem. They have low self-esteem and believe that their weight increase is their fault. According to a study, adults perceive obese children as untidy and lacking self-control (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). Overweight or obese children are more likely to have poor academic and social outcomes and a higher risk of mental health problems in the long run. Obesity and overweight can have severe consequences for children’s physical, mental, and social health (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). Obesity in children also has psychological and social effects, including stigmatization and discrimination. As a result, the person is more likely to develop a depressive disorder, feelings of self-blame, humiliation, powerlessness, and being socially alienated. Obese people are partly stigmatized due to the media’s portrayal of them. Overweight children may be bullied and taunted as a result of this.

Economic Consequences

As a result of the surge in childhood obesity, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are rising. Because a more significant percentage of the population is obese, there is a growing need to spend more money on preventing and treating obesity-related health problems (Faienza et al., 2020). Obesity prevention and treatment initiatives should be centered on children. The economic costs of obesity include lost output, human capital, and healthcare costs. Obese persons miss more workdays (absenteeism) than their non-obese counterparts and perform less efficiently at work (presenteeism) (Faienza et al., 2020). Obesity also increases the likelihood of layoffs and lowers income. The economy suffers from a loss of productivity due to premature death from obesity-related illnesses. As with other diseases, economists researching the costs of obesity do not infer or suggest that people with obesity cause or are responsible for financial losses (Faienza et al., 2020). Obesity and its associated economic implications are, in the end, a direct result of an increasingly obesogenic environment. Weight bias is challenging to quantify but has financial and other consequences, emphasizing the importance of avoiding condemning obese people.


It is critical to maintaining a healthy weight to prevent childhood obesity. Obesity is not a one-time condition that can be cured with a simple weight loss; thus, such a method will require a lot of effort (Faienza et al., 2020). Gaining weight is always simpler than losing weight. It is simpler for a child who has been exposed to harmful behaviors as a child to return to those lives. Staying home and watching TV is far more convenient for youngsters than going outside and playing with their friends or by themselves. As a result, parents, doctors, and nutritionists should meet and devise a plan for their children (Dietz & Robinson, 2008). A healthy lifestyle plan should include restrictions on fast food and soft drinks, time limits on television and computer use, and a focus on physical activity. Parents and physicians must monitor and ensure that any potential adverse effects are eliminated.

Prevention programs can target an individual’s behavior to battle childhood obesity, but a broader approach that includes parents and primary caregivers, teachers, and decision-makers, as well as the wider community, is required. These celebrities can serve as great role models for children, urging them to live a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity (Dietz & Robinson, 2008). It’s better to make small, attainable, and realistic improvements for long-term success. Parental preventive measures include providing proper portion sizes and avoiding using food to motivate or reward good conductors for meeting children’s emotional needs; instead, use stickers or active play to reward a child (Dietz & Robinson, 2008). Parents should also encourage their children to participate in physical activity and offer a supportive social environment, such as family meals, no dining in front of the television, and frequent (physical) activities.

Furthermore, schools are an ideal venue for preventive initiatives due to students’ time. Health education, improved nutrition in schools, and access to clean water are among the programs available. According to Herath et al. (2021), school nutrition and physical activity programs are more effective when done together than when administered alone. Schools can promote healthy eating by placing healthy foods in vending machines and providing nutritious meals and snacks. Free and regular physical education sessions and simple access to clean drinking water are crucial.


Obesity treatment options include a variety of (non-)pharmacological options based on the child’s BMI and any related comorbidities, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, or poor glucose tolerance. Although the primary goal is to change body composition and weight, obesity-related issues can be minimized as a side effect of treatment (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). Obese children can lose weight successfully and significantly with behavioral change and lifestyle intervention. Behavior change approaches are applied to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle and set of behaviors. In most circumstances, it starts with a trained health practitioner determining the problem’s fundamental cause and then deciding on the best course of action. Many people utilize motivational interviewing with their loved ones to assist them in making decisions and setting goals (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). Diet and exercise goals should be specific and measurable, with gradual progress toward them. The same is true when it comes to treating childhood obesity. The diet can be maintained if the caloric limits aren’t exceeded because nutritional deprivation can impede growth and development. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided, as should high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.

However, because obesity is such a pervasive problem, bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) is now sometimes recommended for obese teens. Only children who are highly obese, have severe comorbidities, and have undergone a complete psychosocial evaluation are candidates for bariatric surgery (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). This is because children who have bariatric surgery must follow rigorous dietary and lifestyle restrictions for the rest of their lives. Gastric bypass surgery is a bariatric surgery that limits food consumption by reducing the stomach pouch and restricting nutrients absorbed. A second alternative is to place a small pouch generated by the stomach with an adjustable band around it, limiting food consumption (Rolland-Cachera et al., 2016). Furthermore, pharmacotherapy, or medications, is rarely used as a treatment option and is only used when behavioral and lifestyle interventions fail to reduce BMI adequately. In older children, usually above the age of 12, pharmacological interventions are frequently utilized in conjunction with lifestyle improvements. Pharmacotherapy may have minimal benefits, but it is associated with more unfavorable outcomes than simply changing one’s lifestyle.


Obesity in children must be prevented and treated since it has significant effects on their physical and mental health and financial well-being. Even though the frequency has decreased in some nations, the issue must be handled at various levels to improve community health. A range of causes of obesity; hence a multi-stakeholder approach is essential to address the epidemic. Several factors contribute to childhood obesity. Obesity in children is caused by hereditary and environmental factors, albeit the severity of the problem varies by region. Furthermore, the negative consequences of obesity can last into adulthood. As a result, parents should be aware of their children’s eating choices and lifestyle to avoid health problems later in life. Furthermore, it is preferable to avoid the picture of the obese child as ill, aggressive, and overweight as early as feasible. Parents, doctors, and nutritionists should collaborate to develop an obesity prevention approach for children. However, the problem of childhood obesity requires increased public knowledge, attention, and care.


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Dietz, W. H., & Robinson, T. N. (2008). What can we do to control childhood obesity?. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science615(1), 222-224.

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Garcia, M. L., Gatdula, N., Bonilla, E., Frank, G. C., Bird, M., Rascón, M. S., & Rios-Ellis, B. (2019). Engaging intergenerational Hispanics/Latinos to examine factors influencing childhood obesity using the PRECEDE–PROCEED model. Maternal and child health journal23(6), 802-810.

Herath, M. P., Ahuja, K. D., Beckett, J. M., Jayasinghe, S., Byrne, N. M., & Hills, A. P. (2021). Determinants of Infant Adiposity across the First 6 Months of Life: Evidence from the Baby-bod study. Journal of clinical medicine10(8), 1770.

Jochum, F., Abdellatif, M., Adel, A., Alhammadi, A., Alnemri, A., Alohali, E., … & Saadah, O. (2022). Burden of Early Life Obesity and Its Relationship with Protein Intake in Infancy: The Middle East Expert Consensus. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition25(2), 93.

Rolland-Cachera, M. F., Akrout, M., & Péneau, S. (2016). Nutrient intakes in early life and risk of obesity. International journal of environmental research and public health13(6), 564.

Sanyaolu, A., Okorie, C., Qi, X., Locke, J., & Rehman, S. (2019). Childhood and adolescent obesity in the United States: a public health concern. Global pediatric health6, 2333794X19891305

Author: Shannon Lee
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