Also known as: too much body fat.

What is obesity?

Growing children and adolescents normally gain weight and height each year and the path that they follow is measured by weight and height charts (growth charts) which define the normal range for each age and sex.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) takes into account whether a child’s weight falls within the normal range taking into account his/her height, age and sex. While there a number of ways to define obesity (a problem that almost 20% of school-aged children suffer from), the BMI is widely used to measure obesity (a BMI greater than the normal range for age, sex and height).

What causes obesity?

For the most part, consuming more calories in one's diet from food and drinks than the body uses for normal functioning, growth, and physical activity is the reason for obesity. Genetics, dietary and physical activity behaviors influenced by families, communities, schools, and a variety of other environmental factors all play a role in contributing to the obesity problem we see in children and adolescents today. Rarely endocrine, other disorders or medications may play a role.

What are the symptoms of obesity?

There are no specific symptoms directly related to obesity, however, obese children are at greater for being obese as adults and are more prone to developing heart disease, high cholesterol blood levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma and joint, bone and muscle problems.

What are obesity care options?

In the long term, there appears to be no perfect or simple way to treat obesity, however a program that involves pediatrician, nutritionist, psychologist with/without behavior modification, increased sports and activity time, less time on handheld devices and/or watching TV with strong family/parental support, will in many cases improve weight loss. Medications and surgery may be considered.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 16, 2020 10:43 AM

Food and Nutrition

The Nicklaus Children's Hospital Food and Nutrition Department provides meals, special formulas, and clinical nutrition services.

Learn more