The Rise in Childhood Obesity: What You Should Know

Here's what you should know about the rise in childhood obesity around the world, and how to encourage healthy lifestyle and eating habits in your children from an early age.
The Rise in Childhood Obesity: What You Should Know
Nelton Ramos

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Nelton Ramos.

Written by Naí Botello

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The rise in childhood obesity is a serious cause for concern. Being overweight is linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and joint problems.

Being excessively overweight often hinders the social development of children. Researchers also link being overweight with low self-esteem and poor emotional health.

According to a report presented by the World Health Organization in May 2018, 21% of the total child population is overweight.

For example, the country with the most children who are overweight in the Mediterranean region is Spain. This is despite the many suggestions from nutritionists that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets on the planet; it contains plenty of legumes, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Unfortunately, many kids are indulging in soft drinks, sweets, and junk food instead of eating the same healthy foods as their grandparents. For instance, today they eat very little fruits and vegetables. This can have a very negative impact on their health.

Nutrition isn’t the only factor in the rise of childhood obesity. There is also research showing that children are much more sedentary than they were in the past. There is less time to go outside and parents are less likely to allow time for unstructured play.

Childhood obesity

Obesity is defined as an excess of adipose tissue or body fat in an individual. The body mass of an obese child, for example, would be at 20% or more body fat. 

The Rise in Childhood Obesity: What You Should Know

To determine exactly if a person, or in this case a child, is excessively overweight, you have to do a scale test called body mass index (BMI). This test is also known by its scientific name, the Quetelet index.

The BMI considers the child’s weight and height using a mathematical formula. If the body mass of the child has a range between 85 and 95, the child can be considered obese.

The most likely causes of the rise in childhood obesity

As mentioned previously, the main causes of obesity are poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle. Nonetheless, we want to take the time to talk about each one in detail.

Poor nutrition or high-calorie intake

The leading cause of childhood obesity is eating an unbalanced diet. This means that the child ingests more high-caloric food than natural food. This refers to foods containing refined flours which are especially unhealthy, such as sweets that have excess sugar and fat.

It’s no secret that the day-to-day responsibilities of being a parent can be overwhelming. Many are working more than full time and also taking care of their families. Fast food can quickly solve the problem of providing lunch or dinner. There’s little time to prepare balanced meals with proteins, vegetables, and grains.

“Obesity is defined as an excess of adipose tissue or body fat in the individual. In these cases, body fat constitutes about 20% of the total body weight.”

Mistakenly, parents turn to pizza, hamburgers, tacos, fried chicken, or anything that can be ordered and delivered and that the children like.

Nonetheless, a child’s nutrition should consist of fruits, vegetables, cereals, fresh meats, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.

Today you can find thousands of recipes for a great variety of appealing and healthy dishes. These recipes are easy and quick to prepare. You’ll make more satisfying meals for your children and you can better control what ingredients you use. This will assure that daily meals are more healthy.

The Rise in Childhood Obesity: What You Should Know

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles

Sedentarism is another worldwide problem that’s having grave consequences. In principle, sedentarism is on the rise because we engage less in recreational activities that are outdoors.

Now we’re always seated even when we relax and unwind. Two clear examples of this are watching television and playing video games.

Unfortunately, young children may still enjoy playing soccer but it’s usually behind a video game console. They no longer spend hours out in an open field playing casual sports with their friends.

To assure that your children aren’t too sedentary, it’s important to get at least 150 minutes of exercise or moderate physical activity a week.

You can take a walk in the park, or buy them a bicycle, or even ask them to do something as simple as climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

Finally, it’s important to realize that obese children will be emotionally and psychologically affected by their condition. This can deeply scar their self-esteem and confidence and cause insecurities that carry forward into their adult life as well.




All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Achor, M. S., Adrián, N., Cima, B., & Brac, E. S. (2007). Obesidad infantil. Revista de Posgrado de La VIa Cátedra de Medicina.
  • Lizardo, A., & Díaz, A. (2011). Sobrepeso y obesidad infantil. Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Honduras.
  • Arial, T. (2010). La Obesidad Infantil : una epidemia mundial. Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.