Childhood Obesity Health Risks
  Diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related chronic diseases that are prevalent among adults have now become more common in youngsters. The percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese is now higher than ever before. Poor dietary habits and inactivity are reported to contribute to the increase of obesity in youth.

Today's youth are considered the most inactive generation in history caused in part by reductions in school physical education programs and unavailable or unsafe community recreational facilities.

This fact sheet outlines many factors related to obesity in youth that make it the major health care challenge for the 21st century.

Health Effects

Many adverse health effects associated with overweight are observed in children and adolescents. Overweight during childhood and particularly adolescence is related to increased morbidity and mortality in later life.

    • Prevalence of overweight is reported to be significantly higher in children and adolescents with moderate to severe asthma compared to a peer group.
    • Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has increased dramatically in a short period. The parallel increase of obesity in children and adolescents is reported to be the most significant factor for the rise in diabetes.
    • Type 2 diabetes accounted for 2 to 4 percent of all childhood diabetes before 1992, but skyrocketed to 16 percent by 1994.
    • Obese children and adolescents are reported to be 12.6 times more likely than non-obese to have high fasting blood insulin levels, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
    • Type 2 diabetes is predominant among African American and Hispanic youngsters, with a particularly high rate among those of Mexican descent.
    • Persistently elevated blood pressure levels have been found to occur about 9 times more frequently among obese children and adolescents (ages 5 to 18) than in non-obese.
    • Obese children and adolescents are reported to be 2.4 times more likely to have high diastolic blood pressure and 4.5 times more likely to have high systolic blood pressure than their non-obese peers.
    • Among growing youth, bone and cartilage in the process of development are not strong enough to bear excess weight. As a result, a variety of orthopedic complications occur in children and adolescents with obesity. In young children, excess weight can lead to bowing and overgrowth of leg bones.
    • Increased weight on the growth plate of the hip can cause pain and limit range of motion. Between 30 to 50 percent of children with this condition are overweight.
    • Overweight children are often taller than the non-overweight.
    • White girls, who develop a negative body image, are at a greater risk for the subsequent development of eating disorders.
    • Adolescent females who are overweight have reported experiences with stigmatization such as direct and intentional weight-related teasing, jokes and derogatory name calling, as well as less intentional, potentially hurtful comments by peers, family members, employers and strangers.
    • Overweight children and adolescents report negative assumptions made about them by others, including being inactive or lazy, being strong and tougher than others, not having feelings, and being unclean.
    • Sleep apnea, the absence of breathing during sleep, occurs in about 7 percent of children with obesity. Deficits in logical thinking are common in children with obesity and sleep apnea.


    Diabetes (Type 2) Hypertension Orthopedic Complications Psychosocial Effects & Stigma Sleep Apnea


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