Why is Obesity a Common Problem in Children?

By Dr. Vaishakhi Rustagi in Paediatric (Ped) Endocrinology , Endocrinology & Diabetes

Nov 08 , 2020 | 2 min read


Obesity in children is considered to be an epidemic today. In our country, at one end we have starving kids dying due to infections, diarrhoea, etc and at the other, obese kids causing early morbidity in the form of Hypertension, Diabetes, Fatty liver, etc increasing the health burden on the country.

Does obesity genes run in families?

It is not uncommon to find obese families blame their genes as the cause of obesity, the truth being inactivity and faulty diet is consumed by the whole family.

What are the causes of obesity in children?

  • Portion size  has also increased over the years
  • Lack of inadequate activity has also contributed significantly to obesity, causes being:
  • Safety concerns
  • Few chances for overweight youth to participate in sports
  • Many local fast-food restaurants
  • Lack of sidewalks
  • Lack of inexpensive and accessible places for low-income youth to be active.
  • In India:
  • the pressure to get into professional colleges
  • emphasis on scholastic achievement only

Faulty eating practices like

  • Eating away from home
  • Skipping meals and mainly missing breakfast


  • Over 90% eat snacks
  • Fast foods: high in fat, sugar and sodium
  • Lack of understanding of the bodily need for nourishment
  • Unwillingness to eat with family members
  • Night eating
  • Binge eating
  • Eating only in the latter part of the day after starvation in the early part
  • Lack of controlling their food intake
  • Eating rapidly and indiscriminately
  • High screen time

What is screen time and what are its recommendations?

With the technology getting advanced, the average screen time of children is also increasing. Screen time is no longer just TV watching but also the time spent by children on computers, IPads, video games and mobiles. On average adolescents spend about 5-6 hours on the screen which is about five times the recommended screen time. Dr. Vaishakhi Rustagi, Consultant, Max Super Specialty Shalimar Bagh says, for each hour of television view prevalence of obesity increases by 2% in children.

What are the complications related to obesity in children?

If weight loss has not been achieved by late adolescence, only 5% of obese adolescents will lose weight successfully by adulthood. Hence it is important to address obesity early as possible to avoid the following consequences:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Orthopedic problems:  pain in the joints and legs
  • Lipid disorders
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Snoring
  • Poor self-esteem and depression

How much physical activity do children and adolescents need?

Walking - 2 miles in 30 minutes or running 1½ miles in 15 minutes.

Bicycling - 5 miles in 30 minutes or 4 miles in 15 minutes.

Dancing - fast for 30 to 60 minutes or jumping rope for 15 to 30 minutes.

Playing - basketball, swimming for 30 to 60 minutes.

What is the treatment of obesity?

  • Goals of therapy
  • Behavior goals
  • Development of awareness of current eating habits activity and parenting behavior
  • Identification of problem behaviors
  • Modification of current behavior
  • Medical goals: treat the complications of obesity
  • Parenting goals

 As parents are the role models for their children, everything the parent does is always right. Parents provide for facilitation and maintenance of sedentary lifestyles. Parents must

  • Model eating and exercise habits
  • Provide the prompts for eating
  • Teach kids to override satiety center by exerting external control over feeding