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The Facts about Childhood Obesity

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The Facts about Childhood Obesity




Since about 1980, rates of obesity have tripled, to roughly 18 percent for children and 34 percent for adults. That includes 33 percent of White, 39 percent of Hispanic, and 44 percent of African American adults (Jacobson, 2012).

In various studies, it has been found that about 26–63 percent of obese children (age 0.5–14 years) become obese adults, depending upon how investigators defined obesity, the age of the child at entry into the study, and the length of time that participants were followed. Put another way, obese children are at 2–6.5 times greater risk for becoming obese adults than non obese children. The older the obese child is, the more likely he or she is to become an obese adult.

Whitaker et al. (1997) indicates that if one or both parents are obese, the risk of a child under the age of 10 years becoming an obese adult more than doubles, regardless of whether the child is obese. Whether this effect is due to environmental or genetic factors or both is not known.

Burning 1 gram of carbohydrate releases approximately 4 kcal of energy, and burning 1 gram of protein provides approximately 4 kcal of energy. But the breakdown of 1 gram of fat provides more than double kcal energy expenditure than protein or carbohydrates at approximately 9 kcal! (Jackson, 1999).

Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (Freedman et al. 2007).

Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem (Daniels et al. 2005).

Data from the NSW Child Health Survey 2001 found 40% of children, aged 5-12 years, reportedly watch two hours or more of television or videos a day on average and 15% are reported to play computer games for an hour or more a day on average.

Children, ages 12-19, in the U.S. get 13% of their daily calories from sugar-sweetened beverages (Freedman et al. 2007).

Economic disparities exist in access to healthy foods. Low-income neighbourhoods have the lowest number of supermarkets and the highest number of fast food restaurants (Jacobson, 2012).


Television advertising has been shown to influence the food and beverage preferences, purchase requests, and consumption habits of children, ages 2-11. Yet, over two-thirds (69%) of all food advertising to children is for unhealthy food.






Daniels, S.R. and Arnett, D.K. and Eckel, R.H. et al. Overweight in children and adolescents: pathophysiology, consequences, prevention, and treatment. Circulation 2005;111;1999–2002.


Freedman, D.S. and Zuguo, M. and Srinivasan, S.R. and Berenson, G.S. and Dietz, W.H. Cardiovascular risk factors and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Journal of Pediatrics 2007;150 (1):12–17.


Jacobson, M.F. Spending to Save on Obesity:  Nutrition Action Health Letter. Volume: 39. Issue: 1: January-February 2012. Page number: 2.


Whitaker, R. C. and Wright, J. A. and Pepe, M. S. et al. (1997). Predicting obesity in young adulthood from childhood and parental obesity. New England Journal of Medicine 337: 869–73

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