Why are kids overweight?
Most people understand and recognize that obesity has become an epidemic among children. Less is known about why, with much of the blame going to fast food restaurants, portion sizes, school lunches, and parents. And of course many overweight kids simply eat too much, especially unhealthy foods, and aren’t active enough.
A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics, Risk factors for childhood overweight: a prospective study from birth to 9.5 years, found several reasons for why children become overweight. These include:
- having overweight parents, which gave their children a 48 percent chance of becoming overweight too
- children with highly emotional temperaments, which was characterized as an ‘active personality’ with high levels of ‘anger/frustration’
- parents who had low concerns about their child’s thinness
- children who had frequent tantrums over food, which may have caused parents to give their child extra food and calories to decrease the tantrums
- children who slept less during the day. In fact, children who later became overweight were found to sleep about 30 minutes less during the day than nonoverweight children. This is likely because they were less active during the day, and so were less tired than more active children.
Although the results of this study aren’t going to fix the obesity epidemic, it does provide some risk factors for parents to look for and identify so that they can change the behaviors that can lead to obesity. So if your child has frequent tantrums over foods, like wanting to eat frequent ‘junk food’ snacks or drink a lot of juice, learn not to give in and provide healthier snacks. Or if your child seems to take fewer or shorter naps than other children, work at getting him more active during the day. And of course, overweight parents should learn as much as they can so that the whole family can learn to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.