In children, overweight and obesity correspond to excess fat in the body. Overweight is mainly due to a too rich diet and low physical activity. In some cases it can be explained by family predispositions.
What is the child’s overweight and obesity?
As in adults, the overweight of the child is defined as excess body fat.
The fat mass corresponds to the whole body fat (or adipose tissue). It is opposed to the lean mass that corresponds to the weight of the muscles, organs and viscera.
Childhood obesity is referred to as an overweight level defined by age, sex and body mass index (or BMI).
Overweight and obesity lead to adverse health consequences.
CAUSES of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.
Imbalance between food supplies and energy expenditure: a positive energy balance
A diet too high in calories
The overweight and obesity of the child are mainly explained by an increase in food supply and a decrease in energy expenditure. The caloric intake by the diet is higher than the body’s caloric expenditure, the energy balance is positive and results in an increase in weight. Physical activity is the main energy expenditure. It is the only one that can be acted upon.
A diet too rich in fatty and sweet foods, or fatty and salty, is the main cause of the food imbalance. This imbalance is one of the causes of overweight and obesity in children. The ease of access to these foods (sweets, soft drinks, appetizers, crisps…) and their advertising can influence the eating behavior of children and those around them.
An insufficient energy expenditure
In the industrialized countries, there is a decrease in physical activity in children, a source of energy expenditure. Games and activities are increasingly sedentary:
- Watching television;
- Play a game console or a computer
- Phone, etc.
During these activities, children do not move, do not spend energy and tend to nibble on fatty or sweet foods (peanuts, chips, candies…)
In a child, being inactive causes an increase in fat mass and promotes overweight.
Lack of sleep
Lack of physical activity may be responsible for poor sleep and sleep disturbances. Studies have shown that the risks of overweight appear to be increased in children who do not sleep enough. Indeed, the organism of these children produces less hormones regulating the appetite, made during sleep.
A family or personal history of overweight
- A family predisposition can promote the development of obesity. Overweight and obesity in one or both parents are important risk factors for overweight or future obesity in children.
- More rarely, obesity is linked to a genetic or endocrine disease. It is then associated with other symptoms that allow the doctor to evoke the diagnosis.
Excessive weight gain during pregnancy, gestational diabetes and high birth weight: risks of overweight for the child.
- In pregnant women, overweight or obesity in the early stages of pregnancy, excessive weight gain in the latter, the onset of gestational diabetes is also a risk factor for the future child.
- The body of a child is associated with its birth weight. For example, large babies (4 kilograms or more) are more likely than newborns of small weight (less than 2.5 kilograms) to be overweight at the age of 5-6 years (20% versus 8%).
Medications that promote weight gain
Some medications such as anti-epileptics, psychotropic drugs or corticosteroids can also, because of their side effects, promote overweight.