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What are Common Causes of Obesity in Kids?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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The levels of obesity in kids have been rising at a rate many experts consider alarming in countries all over the world. This problem has several causes related to changes in the way many people live. One cause of obesity in kids is the increasing tendency to fill leisure time with sedentary activities like television and video games. Another cause is poor dietary choices, both in the types of food being consumed and the size of portions. Obesity is also strongly linked to family history; kids with overweight parents are more likely to become obese themselves.

Over the past few decades, rates of obesity in kids have risen substantially. This is an issue in countries all over the world, including the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., the obesity rates for kids are more than three times higher than they were in 1980. The percentage of children who are obese rose from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.8% in 2008. This increase is related to changes in the way people live.

A major cause of obesity in kids is the growing tendency to select sedentary leisure activities and spend less time being physically active. Children spend a great deal of time on activities like television, video games and computers; less time is spent playing outdoors than in the past. One reason for this is the increasing importance of the Internet and electronic devices in the lives of children. It's also caused by the lack of safe, appropriate places for active play, and the increased societal view that children should be supervised at all times. Additionally, kids often are driven everywhere rather than walking or riding bicycles due to increased supervision.

Obesity in kids is also caused by poor eating habits. Convenience foods that are often high in calories are relied on by many families for the ease of preparation. Children are also consuming more quantities of calorie loaded snacks and drinks that often have low nutritional value but are high in sugar and fat. Portion sizes are also often unrealistically large. These factors lead to children consuming more calories than they need to maintain health, which causes weight gain, particularly when combined with a less active lifestyle.

Another cause of obesity in kids is family history; when one or both parents are obese, kids are more likely to be. This is partially due to genetic factors that may increase a youngster's tendency to gain weight. It's also due to cultural factors since overweight parents may be less likely to be alarmed by a child's weight gain. They also often model unhealthy food choices and lifestyles. In very rare cases, childhood obesity can be caused by medical issues like hormone imbalances, but this is not considered to be a significant cause of obesity in kids.

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