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How Does Childhood Obesity Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Childhood obesity is defined as an increase in weight above normal values for a particular age and height below 18 years. It affects both children and adolescents. It is calculated by body mass index in adolescents and ponderal index in children.

How Does Childhood Obesity Affect The Body?

Ketosis Prone Diabetes: It is a type 2 diabetes mellitus which presents earlier in age (in the second decade) as opposed to normal type 2 which present in the age group above 40 years. It has similar features like high body weight, high glucose levels, ketone body formation, etc.

Metabolic Syndrome: also known as syndrome x which usually presents in the elderly age group but due to risk factors can come at an early age. It has high cholesterol and high serum low-density lipoprotein levels. There is also a component of high glucose and high blood pressure.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: childhood obesity can induce this condition in early age due to full stomach factors and excessive hypertrophy of soft palate to counter for the difficulty in breathing in obese patients. It is characterized by snoring in sleep and daytime sleepiness.

Childhood obesity can also lead to other medical conditions like bronchial asthma due to predisposition to atopy, fractures of long bones due to the inability of weight-bearing capacity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, etc.

Psychological Effects

Behavioral And Learning Difficulties: These can arise due to childhood obesity which may be further attributed to anxiety and poor social interaction caused by low self-esteem [1]. These children tend to be bullied because of their overweight body and it also dents the self-confidence of the child. This may change the mindset of children about the world and may not feel attached to anything.

Depression: Bullying in the school and other places, deprivation of the social needs and sometimes excessive chiding from the parents make such children feel socially isolated and deprived of self-confidence and self-esteem. This can slowly progress to the stage of depression in adolescence and early adulthood.(1)

What Triggers Childhood Obesity?

There can be many causes for triggering childhood obesity, these can be classified into familial and non-familial causes. Familial causes are those which are genetically inherited from parents and above generations and are non-modifiable like there is a family history of overweight people and genetic predisposition to fat deposition due to liver enzyme deficiency diseases. Whereas nonfamilial causes are those which are acquired and are modifiable like lack of exercise, bad food habits, overeating, little or no activity, lazy attitude can all lead to obesity in the childhood age group. Sometimes psychological causes can also precipitate childhood obesity like bulimia nervosa, child abuse, mental trauma at an early age, etc.

Childhood obesity is a clinically diagnosed medical condition that could generate a result on both sides that is can be easily treatable or can get life-threatening. It can affect the child both in physical and mental aspects by causing various childhood and adulthood diseases.(1)


Although the causes and risk factors triggering childhood obesity can be both familial and nonfamilial most of the patients belong to the acquired group of risk factors. The genetic makeup of the child is responsible if the parents or the siblings have such conditions beforehand.

It not only produces physical symptoms but also damages the psychology of the child. Various medical conditions like bronchial asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome etc. can occur at an earlier age than the usual age of presentation. Psychological effects like low self-esteem and self-confidence can precipitate the disease further presenting the symptoms physically like that of bulimia nervosa. In the long term, such conditions could also lead to depression in adolescence and lower coping skills with the difficulties of life.

If a child suffering from childhood obesity then it should not be taken lightly and proper counseling and medical treatment should be taken. Ignoring such a condition can be dangerous to your child.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 6, 2021

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