The Cleveland Clinic

Weight Loss:
Obesity in Children

One out of every five children in the U. S. is overweight, and this number is continuing to grow. Children have fewer weight-related health and medical problems than adults, however, overweight children are at high risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults, placing them at risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life.

What Causes Obesity in Children?

Children become overweight for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of these factors. Only in rare cases is being overweight caused by a medical condition such as a hormonal problem. A physical exam and some blood tests can rule out the possibility of a medical condition.

Although weight problems run in families, not all children with a family history of obesity will be overweight. Children whose parents or brothers or sisters are overweight may be at an increased risk of becoming overweight themselves, but this can be link to shared family behaviors such as eating and activity habits.

A child's total diet and activity level play an important role in determining a child's weight. Today, many children spend a lot time being inactive. For example, the average child spends approximately 24 hours each week watching television. As computers and video games become increasingly popular, the number of hours of inactivity may only increase.

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