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Childhood obesity is an increasing problem, especially in developing countries, and it has different effects on people’s lives in the future. Both genetic factors and unhealthy lifestyle are usually the main reasons for childhood overweight that may lead to immediate and long-term results in the private and social life of a person., but there are still other causes of obesity in children. The World Health Organization (2016) pointed out that the amount of overweight children under the age of five is stated to be over 42 million, 31 million of which are living and growing in developing countries. This essay aims to identify and discuss the main reasons for childhood obesity in developing countries. In addition, it also will elaborate on the socio-economic and health effects of this phenomenon.

Many changes in the definition of obesity were made throughout the time, but now it is stated as an extra amount of body fat (Sahoo, 2015). Two different ways of measuring obesity levels, such as Body Max Index (BMI) and wight-for-hight, are now popular. According to Owens (2013), BMI is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. It helps classify weight status for children. As a disease obesity has its causes, and they may differ depending on the level of development of the country. As Gupta, Goel, Shah and Misra (2012) outlined, at least nine factors can lead to overweight in developing countries: reduced physical activity, increased caloric intake, high socio-economic status (SES), increased exposure to Westernized lifestyle and dietary habits, abundance of fast food, sociocultural factors, age and female gender and school programs.

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Genetics is one of the main reasons for childhood overweight. Studies conclude that more that BMI is more than 30% ancestral. It is also considered that age and gender play a role in being overweight at young ages. During the prepubertal phase, there are more obese children than in the postpubertal as teenagers are more concerned about their appearance and weight after the pubertal period. In addition, females are more likely to be obese as they are mostly connected to housework from a young age and have less time for physical activities (Gupta, Goel, Shah, and Misra, 2012). Several reports have documented a greater prevalence of obesity among females than males in India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil, and some studies have documented the opposite. It is often said that overweight children have ‘baby fat’ that disappears with age, but little is known about the fact that most of them will continue to be obese during their later life. It is generally believed that a fat child is a healthy child. Cooking by grandmothers at home has been linked positively to the prevalence of obesity among Greek children ages 8-12. As Sahoo (2015) stated, although genetics itself has a very small impact on childhood obesity. It has a more harmful effect on weight together with environmental situation and lifestyle.

One of the factors most strongly associated with obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. First of all, many indoor activities and entertainment (internet, television watching, computer games, and others) have become more common in recent years. Each additional hour of daily television viewing increases the prevalence of obesity by 2 percent. Increased time spent in sedentary lifestyles has led to decreased time spent in physical activity. Studies suggest that the number of hours children spend looking at television matches their exposure to the highest advertised products, including sugary cereals, candies, sweetened drinks, and salty snacks. Mass media effects have proven to be important for adolescent aggression and smoking, as well as the development of non-realistic body ideals.( Sahoo et al., 2015)Eating habits also have a great impact on childhood overweight. Bid amount of fast food, sugary beverages, snacks, and large portion sizes that provide more caloric intake lead to childhood obesity and problems with physical and mental health in the future.

One of the reasons for childhood overweight as already mentioned was socio-economic status. Low socio-economic status and independence of racial and ethnic differences are other predictors of childhood obesity.( Deckelbaum and Williams, 2014). Socio-economic factors have also been found to influence the development of obesity. Sometimes in modern society, food is seen as a reward that can help to control others, and in most cases, it leads to unhealthy food habits and becomes one of the reasons for gaining weight. High socio-economic status in developing countries puts people a risk of getting overweight because they have access to energy-rich diets. In developed countries, SES is inversely related to childhood obesity, while in developing countries wealthy children in private schools have significantly higher rates of overweight and obesity than children with lower levels of SES. A study in India found a much higher rate of overweight obesity among children from private schools compared to children from public schools (29% vs. 11.3%). Increased buying capacity in the form of per day (pocket money) to purchase food snacks that are available in the school cafeteria or surrounding fast food outlets could be the main reason for this difference.

Being obese in childhood may cause different diseases in the future. High birth weight is one of the causes of overweight and problems with insulin resistance in adulthood. Childhood obesity raises the risk of mental health problems. In overall, females are at greater risk than males, and the risk increases with age. Poor self-esteem and behavioral problems are likely to be the most commonly associated conditions in obese children and teenagers, and these consequences may have the biggest impact on them, their families, and their future. The incidence of cardiovascular risk factors in obese children, including even young children, is remarkably high. Friedman et al. reported that 58% of obese children aged 5-10 years (BMI -¥95 cm) had at a minimum one cardiovascular risk factor, and 25% had two or more risk factors. Pediatric obesity is also highly related to the clustering of cardiovascular risk factors: the chances of having two or three risk factors in the cohort studied by Friedman et al. (relative to non-obese children) were 9.7 and 43.5 respectively. All these factors are more likely to last for the rest of people’s lives. (Reilly, 2005)

Childhood obesity is a significant problem in different urbanized and developing countries and it continues to grow. There are different causes of childhood obesity- it is more likely to be said that genetics play the most important role in overweight but genetics itself does not do that much as it does along with environment situation and lifestyle. Research suggests that the socioeconomic effect of childhood obesity is enormous- rapid socioeconomic transitions, high socio-economic status, and socialization of children by presenting food as a reward are some of the main reasons of overweight in adulthood. Bad eating habits that cause childhood and adulthood obesity can be acquired in the process of socialization. Changes in understanding of the culture of food and the invention of population-based intervention programs will help to manage childhood obesity and as a result, reduce it all.


    1. Deckelbaum, R.J. and Williams, C.L., 2014. Childhood obesity: The Health Issue. Obesity,[e-journal] 9(S11), 239S-243S. HTTP: dx.doi.org10.1038oby.2001.125.
    2. Freedman, D.S., Dietz, W.H., Sathanur R. Srinivasan, S.R. et al., 1999. The Relation of Overweight to Cardiovascular Risk Factors Among Children and Adolescents: The Bogalusa Heart Study. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, [e-journal] 103 (6), 1175-1182. https:doi.org10.1542peds.103.6.1175.
    3. Graver, W.S., Newman, S.B., Gonzalez-Pacheco, D.M et al., 2013. The genetics of childhood obesity and interaction with dietary macronutrients. Genes

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