What Contributes to Childhood Obesity Doc?

The world is going through an epidemic of childhood obesity.
1 in every 5 children is overweight.
"Why is my child gaining so much weight Doc?” – A question I am frequently asked, but find it difficult to answer fully in my busy clinic scenario.
Many inherent and lifestyle factors contribute to abnormal weight gain in children, which can be well monitored by maintaining children's
BMI chart specific for age and sex.

Weight gain cycle

 Weight Gain Cycle

Low level of activity is a common cause of weight gain.
Which came first; low inclination for being active or overweight?

Family activity habits like walking, bicycle riding and active recreation helps children develop active lifestyle.

Outdoor games are crucial for optimal child health

Children are usually apprehensive of new surroundings and new people. To cultivate the habit parents not only need to accompany their children to the playground, but also actively participate in the games.

This imbibes confidence in children; they cherish the company of the parents and perceive outdoor games as source of enjoyment. – After all children learn everything that they see their parents do.

Usual hurdles in developing outdoors sports

  • Fear of exposure to sunlight:
    For developing skin cancers in the western world and for darkening of complexion by the people living in east.

  • Parents perceive the neighborhoods as unsafe:
    Studies show that children of parents who consider neighborhood to be unsafe are 4 times more likely to gain weight excessively.

Family eating habits

Family eating habits that can result in childhood obesity

Television viewing

Television viewing time is directly proportional to weight gain. The effect is influenced by -

  • Sedentary lifestyle.

  • Low mental activity: When exposed to audio visual media for more than 30 minutes per day, it has an oppressive influence on children’s cognitive development.

  • Habitual snacking and soft drinks add to calories.

  • Low inclination to participate in outdoor games.

  • Poor psycho-social development:
    Psycho-social development is dependent on real life time experiences and ability to meet challenges, which are totally lacking while television viewing.

  • Sleep deprivation leads to increased snacking and fluctuations of hormones.

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Childhood, though not usually associated with stress, goes through tremendous turmoil. Children experience stress due to:


Long term use of medications like antipsychotics, high-dose inhaled glucocorticoids, oral glucocorticoids, anticonvulsants are known to cause abnormal weight gain.

Frequent use of antibiotics disturbs gut flora and predispose children to obesity. The micro organisms in our gut work as probiotics. They help in fat metabolism, development of immunity and more.

Hormones' effects on child growth

Hormonal disorders are well known to be a cause of abnormal weight gain that is predominantly central with expanding waistline. However, hormone derangement is confirmed only in about 2 percent of obese children.

  • Growth hormone deficiency:
    It is recognized by discrepancy in height and weight gain on
    percentile growth charts (click here to download one for Free) along with abnormal weight gain around the midriff (Truncal obesity).

  • Cushing syndrome: Recognized by -

    i.) Fall in height gain

    ii.) Rise in weight gain,

    iii.) Abnormal weight gain around the waist .

    vi.) Dark linear discoloration of the belly skin (abdominal striae).

    v.) These children are usually resistant to insulin.

  • Polycystic ovarian disease:

    i.) Scattered blackish discoloration (acanthosis nigricans) suggests insulin resistance.

    ii.) Abnormal hair growth (hirsutism) on face, legs and/or skin of the belly.

    iii.) Premature appearance of pubic hair as with onset of puberty (adrenarche).

    iv.) Central obesity: abnormal weight gain around the waist.

    v.) Discrepancy on percentile chart: Weight gain is more as compared to height gain. - Read more under Growth Variations.

Other predisposing factors

Second hand smoke
Exposure to second hand cigarette smoke and pollution has been associated with childhood obesity.

Genetic predisposition

  • Obesity in parents

  • Excessive weight gain by the mother when the concerned child was in the womb is one of the contributing factors to childhood obesity and is associated with weight gain in children during early school years.

However, parents of children who are already victim of overweight cannot do anything about what happened in the past, so I will not elaborate on it. This little information is for future pregnancy.

Abnormalities usually associated with childhood obesity

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Related pages of interest

Teenage obesity

Binge eating disorder

Childhood diabetes

Insulin resistance associated with high fructose intake

How do I know if my child is beginning to get overweight? Maintain BMI chart - Free Download Here.

17 percent fat of total body weight is essential for onset of menstrual cycles

Metabolic syndrome and obesity

High fructose corn syrup found in sugar free diet drinks

Sudden weight gain during early school years.

Height gain weight gain discrepancy demands evaluation

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Child Health Explanation

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Related Pages

Childhood obesity

Weight gain cycle

Effects of playing outdoors

Hurdles in outdoor sports

Family eating habits

Television viewing



Hormones' effects

Other predisposing factors

Abnormalities associated

Insulin Resistance

Maintain BMI charts

For early deduction of overweight

Teenage obesity

Sudden weight gain

Weight & height gain discrepancy 

Onset of menstrual cycles

Normal fat deposition

Metabolic syndrome

High fructose corn syrup

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