Childhood obesity is a medical condition characterized by an extensive body fat rate in children (WHO 1). Childhood obesity is diagnosed based on body mass index (BMI) because it is challenging to identify body fat directly. According to WHO, normal BMI is determined by the 5th and 85th percentile ranges, while obesity referred to the 95th percentile or greater (2). Obesity is detrimental to children’s health due to the increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases and cancer in adulthood (Weihrauch-Bluher et al. 143). Moreover, childhood obesity presents psychological, physical long-term effects (WHO 3). Thus, obesity is a modern-day public health concern related to severe health issues both in childhood and adulthood.
In 2015, 70% of death related to obesity and overweight were related to cardiovascular diseases (Weihrauch-Bluher and Wiegand 256). Many obese adolescents already suffer from arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia, non-alcoholic fatty liver, hyperuricemia, impaired glucose tolerance, and insulin tolerance (Weihrauch-Bluher and Wiegand 256). Moreover, the risk for type 2 diabetes is exceptionally high among obese children and teenagers (Weihrauch-Bluher and Wiegand 256). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights that the number of adolescents and children with obesity in the USA was about 14.4 million in 2017-2018. This indicator continues to grow with the rate of 5,3% percent per year (WHO 2021).
Childhood obesity is also related to the risk of cancer in adult life. As mentioned by Weihrauch-Bluher et al., 38% of people diagnosed with cancer have an overweight or obese body (147). An observational study revealed that an increase in BMI of 5 kg/m^2 elevates cancer risk to the range of 10-30% (Weihrauch-Bluher et al. 145). In the last ten years, the link between obesity and lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma, colorectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and acute myeloid leukemia was revealed (Weihrauch-Bluher et al. 146).
Childhood obesity poses both psychological and physiological effects on children’s well-being. According to the WHO, the impact of childhood obesity includes poorer health in childhood and in further adulthood, low self-esteem, a higher possibility to be bullied, more unsatisfactory school performance and attendance, more inferior employment opportunities, and a lower-paid job (2). Childhood obesity also increases the risk of depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and eating disorders in adolescence (WHO 2). In addition, the physical dangers and effects accomplished by psychological pressure and conditions that occurred could lead to drastic consequences.
Childhood obesity prevention is a big campaign constructed from several stages (WHO 4). According to WHO, obesity prevention demands actions throughout life, beginning before birth (4). Mothers should keep a healthy and nutritious diet during maternal nutrition during the pregnancy, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding (WHO 5). WHO states that the BMI of the child is closely related to the mother’s nutritional habits at the early stages of childhood (5). In the following stages, WHO recommends correctly choosing a food environment and considering promotional marketing (6). Moreover, WHO requires putting labels that indicate the product’s nutritional content in the front pack (6). In monitoring and eliminating childhood obesity, WHO encourages compulsory physical activity in schools and childhood institutions (7). In addition to that, schools should provide nutritious, healthy food for children and introduce mandatory lessons about the importance of a healthy lifestyle (WHO 8). Weihrauch-Bluher et al. say that study included 500 children revealed that prevention measures organized by community and schools performed better (148). Therefore, obesity prevention measures should be community-based or environment based on its nature (Weihrauch-Bluher et al. 149).
“Childhood Obesity. Facts Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
Weihrauch-Bluher, Susann, and Susanna Wiegand. “Risk Factors and Implications of Childhood Obesity.” Current Obesity Reports, vol. 7, no. 4, 2018, pp. 254–259., doi:10.1007/s13679-018-0320-0.
Weihrauch-Bluher, Susann, et al. “Childhood Obesity: Increased Risk for Cardiometabolic Disease and Cancer in Adulthood.” Metabolism, vol. 92, 2019, pp. 147–152., doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2018.12.001.
World Health Organization. Taking Action on Childhood Obesity, WHO, 2018.