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Causes of Childhood Obesity

With the increase in childhood obesity, I have seen that there is a lot of interest in the causes of childhood obesity, so I thought I would do a little research into the issue and do a write up here of what I have found.

Having an academic orientation, I tend to like to look for cited academic research on these sorts of issues, and I ended up finding an interesting piece of research by Patricia Anderson and Krisrin Butcher [1].

Personally I am a believer that weight gain or loss comes down to maintaining either a calorie surplus or deficit. As such I think when looking at an issue like the causes of childhood obesity, you should attempt to look at the issue in terms of calorie intake and energy expenditure (or calories burned). This is quite consistent with the cited research.

The potential causes [1] were broken down into looking at trends in the increase in calorie consumption and decrease in energy expenditure.

A number of the identified causes were as follows:

Increased Calorie Consumption

The authors pointed out that soft drinks and convience food are generally high in calories. They noted that there has been an increased availability of these foods to children as well as an increase in the advertising of these foods to children. Combining this with the fact that a number of families now have both parents working or are single perent families, more families may now find it necessary to rely on these sorts of foods, rather than traditional eating of healthy foods at home.

It is believed that these factors may have led to an increase in the consumption of soda drinks and convenience food, resulting in an overall increase in calorie consumption in children.

Decreased Energy Expenditure

The authors indicated that some of the reasons for decreased energy expenditure may be:

  1. Less children are walking to school, but are rather being driven. To see the sort of impact this may have on calories being burned, take a look at our article on the calories burned walking.
  2. For many families, it is now more difficult for children to engage in physical activity that is unsupervised, or only slightly supervised in a safe way.
  3. There appears to be an increase in the time spent watching television in obese children, thus reducing time spent on more active activities.

If you have a strong interest in this issue, I suggest taking a look at [1] for further information.

[1] Anderson, Patricia M., Butcher, Kristin F. (Kristin Frances). Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes, The Future of Children – Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2006, pp. 19-45

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