St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Causes and risks for obesity - children

    When children eat more than they need, their bodies store the extra calories in fat cells to use for energy later. If this pattern continues over time, and their bodies do not need this stored energy, they develop more fat cells and may develop obesity.

    No single factor or behavior causes obesity. Obesity is caused by many things, including a person's habits, lifestyle, and environment. Genetics and some medical conditions also increase a person's chances of becoming obese.

    Learned Behaviors and Habits

    Infants and young children are very good at listening to their bodies' signals of hunger and fullness. They will stop eating as soon as their bodies tell them they have had enough. But sometimes a well-meaning parent tells them they have to finish everything on their plate. This forces them to ignore their fullness and eat everything that is served to them.

    The way we eat when we are children may strongly affect our eating behaviors as adults. When we repeat these behaviors over many years, they become habits. They affect what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat.

    Other learned behaviors include using food to:

    • Reward good behaviors
    • Seek comfort when we feel sad
    • Express love

    These learned habits lead to eating no matter if we are hungry or full. Many people have a very hard time breaking these habits

    Lifestyle and Environment

    The family, friends, schools, and community resources in a child's environment reinforce lifestyle habits regarding diet and activity.

    Children are surrounded by many things that make it easy to overeat and harder to be active:

    • Parents have less time to plan and prepare healthy meals. As a result, children are eating more processed and fast foods that are usually less healthy than home-cooked meals.
    • Children see up to 10,000 food commercials every year. Most of these are for candy, fast food, soft drinks, and sugared cereals. See also: Snacks and sweetened beverages - children
    • More foods today are processed and high in fat and contain too much sugar.
    • Vending machines and convenience stores make it easy to get a quick snack, but they rarely sell healthy foods.
    • Overeating is a habit that is reinforced by restaurants that advertise high-calorie foods and large portion sizes.

    At Home

    If a parent is overweight and has poor diet and exercise habits, the child is likely to adopt the same habits.

    Watching television, gaming, texting, and playing on the computer are activities that require very little energy. They can take up a lot of time and replace physical activity. And, when children watch television, they often crave the unhealthy high-calorie snacks they see on commercials.

    See also: Screen time

    At School

    Schools have an important role in teaching students about healthy food choices and exercise. But not all schools offer healthy food choices or time for physical activity. Vending machines in schools that sell soda and other sugary drinks make it easy for children to make unhealthy choices.

    In the Community

    Having a safe community that supports outdoor activities at parks, or indoor activities at community centers, is important for encouraging physical activity. If a parent feels it is not safe to allow their child to play outside, the child is more likely to do sedentary activities inside.

    Eating Disorders and Obesity in Children

    The term "eating disorders" refers to a group of medical problems that have an unhealthy focus on eating, dieting, losing or gaining weight, and body image.

    Obesity and eating disorders often occur at the same time in teenage girls and young, adult women who may be unhappy with their body image.

    Genetic Factors

    Some children are at greater risk of obesity because of genetic factors -- they have inherited genes from their parents that make their bodies gain weight easily. This would have been a very good trait hundreds of years ago, when food was hard to find and people were very active. Today, though, this can work against people who have these genes.

    Genetics is not the only cause of obesity. To become obese, children must also eat more calories than they need for growth and energy.

    Obesity may be linked to rare genetic conditions, such as Prader Willi syndrome.

    Medical Factors

    Certain medical conditions, such as hormone disorders or low thyroid function, and certain medications, such as steroids or anti-seizure medications, can increase a child's appetite, which over time increases their risk for obesity.

    BACK TO TOP

          A Closer Look

          Talking to your MD

            Self Care

            Tests for Causes and risks for obesity - children

              Review Date: 8/1/2012

              Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
              adam.com

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              History
              Mission
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs
              Assessment

              Newsroom
              Services
              Brain & Spine
              Cancer
              Heart
              Maternity
              Orthopedics
              Pulmonary
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              mystlukes
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Health Risk Assessments
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Volunteer
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              Careers
              Careers
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile