Childhood Obesity Part 1

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Childhood obesity has been called one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, and with good reason.

Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body—heart and lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract, as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty—and can also take a heavy social and emotional toll.

(1, 2) What’s worse, youth who are overweight or obese have substantially higher odds of remaining overweight or obese into adulthood, (3) increasing their risk of disease and disability later in life.

Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool children (under age 5) were overweight or obese in 2010, a 60 percent increase since 1990. (4) The problem affects countries rich and poor, and by sheer numbers, places the greatest burden on the poorest: Of the world’s 43 million overweight and obese preschoolers, 35 million live in developing countries. By 2020, if the current epidemic continues unabated, 9 percent of all preschoolers will be overweight or obese—nearly 60 million children. (4)


Source of this Article: Harvard University

1. World Health Organization. Global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health: childhood overweight and obesity. Accessed March 9, 2012.

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

3. Singh AS, Mulder C, Twisk JW, van Mechelen W, Chinapaw MJ. Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature. Obes Rev. 2008;9:474-88.

4. de Onis M, Blossner M, Borghi E. Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:1257-64.

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