Causes of Childhood Obesity

Genetics
Another influence on childhood obesity is genetics, although how much this influences childhood obesity is not known. There are a couple of reasons why childhood obesity cannot be blamed solely on genetics. First, genetics does not change drastically from one generation to the next. However, during one generation, the rate of overweight children has increased from 4 percent to 19 percent. Also, families share dietary and lifestyle habits, which are known contributors to childhood obesity.
 
(Click Genetics and Obesity for more information.)
 
Social Factors
Social factors, including poverty and a lower level of education, have been linked to obesity. One reason for this may be that high-calorie processed foods cost less and are easier to find and prepare than healthier foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. Other reasons may include inadequate access to safe recreational places, limiting opportunities for physical activity. However, the link between low socioeconomic status and obesity has not been conclusively established, and recent obesity research shows that childhood obesity is also increasing among high-income groups.
 
Medications
Certain drugs, such as steroids, some antidepressants, and some medications for psychiatric conditions or seizure disorders, may cause weight gain. These drugs may stimulate appetite, slow down the rate at which the body burns calories, or cause the body to hold on to extra water.
 

A Summary of Childhood Obesity Causes

There are a number of factors that can increase a child's chances for developing obesity, including genetic, environmental, and social factors, along with medication. Some people may consider these obesity risk factors to be "causes of childhood obesity," but they are not, because they do not "guarantee" obesity. In all of these cases, the underlying cause is eating more calories than the body can burn -- for whatever reason.
 
If your child is overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator for Children), the good news is that you can do something about it (see Obesity Prevention). In fact, you need to do something about it, because there is a 70 percent chance that an obese adolescent will continue to be obese during adulthood. This increases the chances for developing a number of health-related problems, including premature death (see Obesity Problems).
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