Health Condition

Childhood Obesity

About This Condition

Excessive weight in children and adolescents is becoming an increasingly serious problem.1,2 In the United States, 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years are overweight, and among adolescents the percentage is three times higher than it was 20 years ago.3 Major contributors to childhood obesity include genetics, unhealthy diets, and sedentary lifestyles.4,5 Overweight children often become adults with weight problems that contribute to a wide variety of health problems,6,7 but even during childhood and adolescence, overweight can contribute to such disorders as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and liver disease.8,9,10 Being overweight also has social and psychological consequences for children in terms of social discrimination, poor self-esteem, and depression.11,12

Parents, family members, and others who are important people in a child’s life can either help or harm an obese child’s situation. As with all children, those with weight problems need acceptance, support, and encouragement from their family, and the eating, exercising, and other health habits of family members play important roles in influencing the same behaviors in children.13,14


The proper weight for a growing child or adolescent should be determined with the help of a doctor or other qualified health professional, who can also determine whether any unusual medical problems might be contributing to weight gain, whether any current health problems exist that are related to overweight, and appropriate weight control methods. Treating obesity should not include overly restrictive or fad diets that are missing essential nutrients. In fact, weight loss is not necessarily appropriate for a growing child. Often the best goal for an overweight child is to maintain their current weight as they grow taller.

Other Therapies

Treatment for childhood obesity involves screening for heart disease risk and other health risk factors, and providing information on improving diet and exercise habits. No medications are approved for treating childhood obesity.15


1. Rudolf MC, Greenwood DC, Cole TJ, et al. Rising obesity and expanding waistlines in schoolchildren: a cohort study. Arch Dis Child 2004;89:235-7.

2. Rugg K.Childhood obesity: its incidence, consequences and prevention. Nurs Times 2004;100:28-30 [review].

3. The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity: Overweight in Children and Adolescents. Surgeon General [cited 2004 May 1]. Available from URL: www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm.

4. Clement K, Ferre P. Genetics and the pathophysiology of obesity. Pediatr Res 2003;53:721-5 [review].

5. Ebbeling CB, Pawlak DB, Ludwig DS. Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. Lancet 2002;360:473-82 [review].

6. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Flegal KM. Epidemiologic trends in overweight and obesity. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 2003;32:741-60 [review].

7. Vanltallie TB. Predicting obesity in children. Nutr Rev 1998;56:154-5 [review].

8. Hassink S. Problems in childhood obesity. Prim Care 2003;30:357-74 [review].

9. Sullivan CS, Beste J, Cummings DM, et al. Prevalence of hyperinsulinemia and clinical correlates in overweight children referred for lifestyle intervention. J Am Diet Assoc 2004;104:433-6.

10. Schwimmer JB, Deutsch R, Rauch JB, et al. Obesity, insulin resistance, and other clinicopathological correlates of pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Pediatr 2003;143:500-5.

11. Zametkin AJ, Zoon CK, Klein HW, Munson S. Psychiatric aspects of child and adolescent obesity: a review of the past 10 years. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2004;43:134-50 [review].

12. Schwartz MB, Puhl R. Childhood obesity: a societal problem to solve. Obes Rev 2003;4:57-71.

13. Golan M, Crow S. Parents are key players in the prevention and treatment of weight-related problems. Nutr Rev 2004;62:39-50 [review].

14. Birch LL, Davison KK. Family environmental factors influencing the developing behavioral controls of food intake and childhood overweight. Pediatr Clin North Am 2001;48:893-907 [review].

15. Moran R. Evaluation and treatment of childhood obesity. Am Fam Physician 1999;59:861-8, 871-3 [review].

16. Kimm SY. The role of dietary fiber in the development and treatment of childhood obesity. Pediatrics 1995;96:1010-4.

17. Livieri C, Novazi F, Lorini R. The use of highly purified glucomannan-based fibers in childhood obesity. Pediatr Med Chir 1992;14:195-8 [in Italian].

18. Vido L, Facchin P, Antonello I, et al. Childhood obesity treatment: double blinded trial on dietary fibres (glucomannan) versus placebo. Padiatr Padol 1993;28:133-6.

19. Campbell K, Waters E, O'Meara S, et al. Interventions for preventing obesity in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002;2:CD001871 [review].

20. Epstein LH, Myers MD, Raynor HA, Saelens BE. Treatment of pediatric obesity. Pediatrics 1998;101:554-70 [review].

21. Saelens BE, Sallis JF, Wilfley DE, et al. Behavioral weight control for overweight adolescents initiated in primary care. Obes Res 2002;10:22-32.

22. McLean N, Griffin S, Toney K, Hardeman W. Family involvement in weight control, weight maintenance and weight-loss interventions: a systematic review of randomised trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2003;27:987-1005 [review].

23. Wadden TA, Stunkard AJ, Rich L, et al. Obesity in black adolescent girls: a controlled clinical trial of treatment by diet, behavior modification, and parental support. Pediatrics 1990;85:345-52.

24. Israel AC, Guile CA, Baker JE, et al. An evaluation of enhanced self-regulation training in the treatment of childhood obesity. J Pediatr Psychol 1994;19:737-49.

25. Golan M, Fainaru M, Weizman A. Role of behaviour modification in the treatment of childhood obesity with the parents as the exclusive agents of change. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1998;22:1217-24.

26. Dietz WH. Therapeutic strategies in childhood obesity. Horm Res 1993;39(Suppl 3):86-90.

27. Graves T, Meyers AW, Clark L. An evaluation of parental problem-solving training in the behavioral treatment of childhood obesity. J Consult Clin Psychol 1988;56:246-50.

28. Epstein LH, Paluch RA, Gordy CC, et al. Problem solving in the treatment of childhood obesity. J Consult Clin Psychol 2000;68:717-21.

29. Suskind RM, Sothern MS, Farris RP, et al. Recent advances in the treatment of childhood obesity. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1993 Oct 29;699:181-99.

30. Figueroa-Colon R, von Almen TK, Franklin FA, et al. Comparison of two hypocaloric diets in obese children. Am J Dis Child 1993;147:160-6.

31. Linet OI. Long-term efficacy of medical treatments of obesity. Klin Wochenschr 1982;60:115-20 [review].

32. Ball SD, Keller KR, Moyer-Mileur LJ, et al. Prolongation of satiety after low versus moderately high glycemic index meals in obese adolescents. Pediatrics 2003;111:488-94.

33. Ebbeling CB, Ludwig DS. Treating obesity in youth: should dietary glycemic load be a consideration? Adv Pediatr 2001;48:179-212 [review].

34. Spieth LE, Harnish JD, Lenders CM, et al. A low-glycemic index diet in the treatment of pediatric obesity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000;154:947-51.

35. Ebbeling CB, Leidig MM, Sinclair KB, et al. A reduced-glycemic load diet in the treatment of adolescent obesity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2003;157:725-7.

36. Sondike SB, Copperman N, Jacobson MS. Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. J Pediatr 2003;142:253-8.

37. Willi SM, Oexmann MJ, Wright NM, et al. The effects of a high-protein, low-fat, ketogenic diet on adolescents with morbid obesity: body composition, blood chemistries, and sleep abnormalities. Pediatrics 1998;101:61-7.

38. Pena L, Pena M, Gonzalez J, Claro A. A comparative study of two diets in the treatment of primary exogenous obesity in children. Acta Paediatr Acad Sci Hung 1979;20:99-103.

39. St-Onge MP, Keller KL, Heymsfield SB. Changes in childhood food consumption patterns: a cause for concern in light of increasing body weights. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:1068-73 [review].

40. Golan M, Crow S. Parents are key players in the prevention and treatment of weight-related problems. Nutr Rev 2004;62:39-50 [review].

41. The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity: Overweight in Children and Adolescents. Surgeon General [cited 2004 May 1]. Available from URL: www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm.

42. von Kries R, Koletzko B, Sauerwald T, von Mutius E. Does breast-feeding protect against childhood obesity? Adv Exp Med Biol 2000;478:29-39.

43. Armstrong J, Reilly JJ, Child Health Information Team. Breastfeeding and lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Lancet 2002;359:2003-4.

44. Grummer-Strawn LM, Mei Z. Does breastfeeding protect against pediatric overweight? Analysis of longitudinal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System. Pediatrics 2004;113:e81-6.

45. James J, Thomas P, Cavan D, Kerr D. Preventing childhood obesity by reducing consumption of carbonated drinks: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2004 Apr 27; E-pub 2004 Apr 23.

46. Ikeda JP, Mitchell RA. Dietary approaches to the treatment of the overweight pediatric patient. Pediatr Clin North Am 2001;48:955-68 [review].

47. Livingstone MB, Robson PJ, Wallace JM, McKinley MC. How active are we? Levels of routine physical activity in children and adults. Proc Nutr Soc 2003;62:681-701 [review].

48. Reilly JJ, McDowell ZC. Physical activity interventions in the prevention and treatment of paediatric obesity: systematic review and critical appraisal. Proc Nutr Soc 2003;62:611-9.

49. Epstein LH, Valoski AM, Vara LS, et al. Effects of decreasing sedentary behavior and increasing activity on weight change in obese children. Health Psychol 1995;14:109-15.

50. Epstein LH, Paluch RA, Gordy CC, Dorn J. Decreasing sedentary behaviors in treating pediatric obesity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000;154:220-6.

51. Robinson TN. Reducing children's television viewing to prevent obesity: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 1999;282:1561-7.

52. The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity: Overweight in Children and Adolescents. Surgeon General [cited 2004 May 1]. Available from URL: www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm.

53. Schwingshandl J, Sudi K, Eibl B, et al. Effect of an individualised training programme during weight reduction on body composition: a randomised trial. Arch Dis Child 1999;81:426-8.

54. Dao HH, Frelut ML, Oberlin F, et al. Effects of a multidisciplinary weight loss intervention on body composition in obese adolescents. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2004;28:290-9.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

Learn more about TraceGains, the company.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.