Childhood Obesity

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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What are the risks, complications, and long-term health effects of childhood obesity?

The consequences of childhood obesity may be grouped into three areas: physical, mental, and economic. The known physical side effects of obesity are multiple and broad spectrum in character. These include the following:

  1. Increase in risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus due to excessive insulin secretion and organ resistance to insulin
  2. Menstrual irregularity and infertility
  3. Heart attack and stroke due to hypercholesterolemia, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension
  4. Pulmonary issues centering on asthma and obstructive sleep apnea
  5. Orthopedic issues of bowed legs and hip instability (for example, slipped capital femoral epiphysis)
  6. Metabolic issues (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastroesophageal reflux [GERD])

Equally as important as these physical side effects of obesity are the psychological consequences, which include the following:

  1. Lowering of self-esteem often reinforced by teasing and bullying at school as well as a recurring barrage of the normal/ideal physique displayed by the media and entertainment industries
  2. Depression, leading to possible further eating or an exaggerated overcorrection leading to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa

The economic costs of childhood obesity are not often considered but are very important. Such effects include the following:

  1. The direct costs of medical office visits, diagnostic studies, and therapeutic services
  2. Indirect costs are both long- and short-term and include decrease in productivity, absenteeism, and premature death. Researchers estimate that over $147 billion are spent annually on the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/29/2016
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