The Etiology of Childhood Obesity

There is no doubt that children in developing countries are facing more problems than children in developed countries such as poverty, infectious diseases, and backward medical treatment. The development in the early childhood stage plays an important role on children’s overall development. As Shonkoff states, perfect approaches to emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects will help children to perform better in their school, workplace, as well as the community (2009). If children were suffering extreme abuse and poverty, their brain development is slower than other children.

For example, domestic violence will make the attachment between parents and children fragile. Children may become terrified as they don’t know when parents will abuse them. Therefore, a safe and balanced childhood really helps a human to become a better person. The issue I want to talk for my assignment is obesity. It is commonly believed that except for one-third of obese people affected by genetics, the emergence of most obese people is closely related to food industrialization, urbanization and economic globalization.

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There are three types of obesity: one is simple obesity, the cause is excessive eating, and the second is secondary obesity, which is mainly caused by diseases such as endocrine disorders and metabolic disorders. The third type is drug-induced obesity, which is caused mainly by taking drugs such as hormones.

Among these three types of obesity, simple obesity accounts for about 95%, which is the most common for obese people, and secondary and drug-induced obesity only account for 2% to 5% (Zhao, Wang, 2009). According to Wright and Aronne, the leading cause of obesity is excess energy consumption, and genetic, psychological and social factors will raise the risk of becoming overweight (2012).

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Therefore, the etiology of obesity is very complex, but some people only believe that obesity is only due to excess consumption. Obesity is a popular topic as the public begins to notice the negative effects of obesity. Our society is changing rapidly now; we pay much attention to our school work, salary, and family but we pay less attention to our diet. People may choose fast food as it is cheap and time-saving. The situation is even worst in developing countries; children may have higher risk of obesity due to poor awareness and unhealthy food. In the past, the public held the view that children in developing countries may suffer from hunger rather than obesity. However, the research shows the leading diet problem for children in developing countries is obesity but not hunger, except for some regions in Africa.

The shortage of food has ceased to exist for many years and has been replaced by ample food. Moreover, food consumption in developing countries is shifting to a diet high in fat, sugar, salt and low in dietary fiber. Unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are the main risk factors for obesity, while cheap, easy to obtain and high-fat foods consumption has driven the increase in obesity and overweight. In China, 46% of children regularly consume sugary drinks, and more than 80% of 5 to 8 years old children do not have enough exercise. According to the statistics, some developing countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and India have above 20% children suffering from obesity. Moreover, the number is increasing rapidly in the past 10 years. (Gupta, Goel & Misra, 2012). Also, another contributing factor is depression. According to Mayhew, McVey and Bardick, the association between obesity and depression is not unidirectional, depression may become the cause as well as the result (2012).

When children are depressed, they often like to use delicious food to stabilize their emotions and awaken their inner desire for happiness and happiness. Coupled with depression, children are often reluctant to participate in activities, prefer to stay in their own world to avoid everyone, resulting in weight gain. A survey showed that obese patients were more prone to depression, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions, 23.2% were diagnosed with depression, and 14.3% were normal weight (Mayhew, McVey and Bardick, 2012). In addition, the family and many social factors are also important causes of childhood obesity. At the household level, the generation of parents of obese children were mostly lacking in food when they were young. When they are able to give their children a food guarantee, they will try their best to give their children the most nutritious food. As a result, children who do not have excessive self-selection ability will consume excess nutrition. In addition, parents lack knowledge about childhood obesity, and insufficient attention to children’s weight are also the reason. A survey shows that 64.2% of parents are concerned about the child’s weight; 76.3% of parents know how to judge whether the child is obese; 72.9% of parents have never controlled the child’s weight (Zhao, Wang, 2009).

At the school level, the education system puts too much pressure on children for higher education, which makes them pay more attention to learning, thus reducing the time for extracurricular exercise and play. From a social perspective, the existence of profiteers has caused the proliferation of hormones in food and the chemicals in the environment to a certain extent to cause childhood obesity. Obesity will affect physical, cognitive, and social growth during the early childhood stage. The most direct effect can be found in physical aspect. As we all know, obesity will cause many diseases. According to Mazicioǧlu, obesity becomes one of the leading factors for some chronic diseases such as “hyperlipidemia, hyperinsulinemia, hypertension, and early atherosclerosis”, which is really found among elder people (Mazicioǧlu, 2010). Furthermore, obesity will cause respiratory diseases. Obese children are at risk for chest wall fat accumulation, affecting lung ventilation function, reducing respiratory resistance, and respiratory diseases. Obesity also has a great impact on puberty. Obese girls may have early puberty, premature menarche, and breast development, which may be 1 to 2 years earlier than normal children. During their adulthood, they are prone to ovulation disorders, dysplasia, and low levels of estrogen, which results in infertility.

The situation of boys is more complicated. Obese boys can have either precocious puberty or delayed development of puberty. Severe obesity usually delayed puberty. Mammary gland development is the biggest problem for obese boys. Many normal boys also have breast development during adolescence, but it is not serious, and it alleviates after 2 or 3 years. The incidence of breast development in obese boys is significantly higher, and it subsides much later than other boys. Obesity children have hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, and some obese children have begun to suffer from impaired glucose tolerance. As we all know, insulin is the only hypoglycemic hormone secreted by islet B cells. Under normal circumstances, when changes in the body’s blood sugar occurs, the amount of insulin secretion is automatically adjusted to ensure the stability of the body’s blood sugar.

For example, after eating a meal, the blood sugar level rises, the body’s insulin secretion increases rapidly, and the blood sugar is quickly controlled to a normal range through its metabolism. The blood sugar has returned to a fasting level 2 hours after the meal. However, in obese children, there is a difference in hypoglycemic effect; the body cannot produce a normal physiological response to physiological insulin, that is, tissue sensitivity to insulin decreased. Therefore, the secretion of insulin in obese children is much higher than that of normal people, in order to maintain the stability of blood sugar in the body, which results in a hyperinsulinemia state. If obesity persists, the compensatory function of islet B cells will eventually be depleted. At that time, insulin insufficiency in the body will control the blood sugar level and impaired glucose tolerance. As a result, obesity develops into a three-step process of diabetes. Besides the negative effects on the physical aspect, obesity also bring negative effects to children’s emotional and social development. Overweight children will suffer many discriminations from their peer and even adults. According to Wardle and Cooke, obesity is associated with low esteem, overweight children are less likely to be satisfied with body image (2005). What’s more, sometimes obesity is associated with mental health.

In modern society, people’s attitudes towards appearance become increasingly harsh, especially for children. Social media puts a lot of pressure on humans. They are potentially receiving information about being skinny is a trend, which actually leaves a negative influence regarding body shaming. Therefore, fear of obesity is considered a very serious topic that can result in inferiority, low self-esteem, and even depression among young people. For instance, obese people are unfairly believed as indolent during career fairs, and they are treated differently than people who have normal body sizes. As a result, obese people are less likely to have a satisfying job. It is very obvious that discrimination can be the most common factor that makes people feel inferior. Also, as far as we know, words can hurt as much as sticks and stones, all negative comments online on obesity make fat people feel bad as well.

Eventually, fat people will become depressed and even suicide if no one tells them that being fat is fine as long as they are healthy. Obese children are more likely to develop feelings of inferiority, which affects their learning ability and intellectual development. There is even a study that shows that obese children are more likely to skip school. An article mentions that overweight school-age children are more likely to skip school because of shame and bullying (Pan, Sherry, 2009). The shame and obsessiveness of obesity make it easier for overweight children to skip classes. In addition, problems caused by obesity will have a major impact on families, increasing the burden of the social security system and affecting the development of the social economy.

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The Etiology of Childhood Obesity. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved from

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