About Childhood Obesity

The Mayo Clinic notes that twice as many children between the ages of 6 and 11, and three times as many teenagers, are now overweight, compared with 20 or so years ago. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) overweight teenagers are 70 percent more likely to become overweight or obese adults, increasing their risks for life-threatening conditions.

In addition, a study published in the January 30, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that children who are overweight at the age of 5 are four times more likely to be obese by the time they are 14 years old. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and liver disease. They also are more likely to be teased and bullied and they suffer from depression, social isolation, stress, anxiety, problems learning, and changes in behavior more often than kids who aren't overweight.

In February 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a significant decline in obesity rates among children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the United States. According to this data, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), rates of obesity in this age group fell from almost 14 percent in 2004 to a little over 8 percent in 2012—a decline of about 43 percent. This information is based on data from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Although the reasons for this drop in obesity rates among preschool children are not entirely clear, the following are thought to be contributing factors:

  • Improved nutrition and physical activity standards in child care centers
  • Decreases in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in this age group
  • Increasing breastfeeding rates (beneficial in preventing childhood obesity)

Publication Review By: Karen Larson, M.D.

Published: 16 Nov 2006

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2014