Childhood Obesity

More than 1 in 4 kids in the U.S. is classified as obese or at high risk of becoming obese. While the rate has increased over time, it has led to a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes and the risks of heart disease and elevated blood pressure among children and adolescents.

Early Risk Factors

By age 6, a child is 15 times more likely to be obese if his mother is overweight. And before age 3, parental obesity is a stronger predictor of obesity in adulthood than a child’s own weight. Researchers don’t know whether the cause is genetic or environmental, but they suggest that both factors contribute.

Studies have also linked obesity to persistent tantrums over food, not getting enough sleep and Irregular family meals. All 3 are often detected in the 1st or 2nd year of life.

Other risk factors include:

  • Less frequent feedings and less time overall spent interacting with an obese mother as an infant
  • Less than three months of breastfeeding
  • A small birth weight, but a higher percentage of body fat relative to lean tissue
  • Rapid weight gain during the first 4 months of life, which is linked to an increased risk of obesity by age 7
  • Early exposure to solid foods
  • Excess consumption of fruit juice or soda
  • Maternal smoking

What to Do?

If your toddler is becoming seriously overweight and any of these factors apply, talk with the healthcare provider. With early intervention and nutritional counseling, these can be altered before obesity becomes a concern.

Toddlers should get all the exercise they need in active play—running, walking, dancing, building and generally being busy for several hours each day.

If your 2-year-old is showing signs of excessive weight gain, talk to the healthcare provider. She may suggest regulating diet or activity.

One of the most important things parents can do to prevent childhood obesity is to turn off the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 watch no television, and that kids ages 2–5 have no more than 1 hour of screen time a day.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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