The Overweight Child

Obesity is no longer just for adults, prevalence of childhood obesity skyrocketed in every age category. Child is called obese if the percentage body fat is 25% in males and 30% in females.

But how to know your child is over weight?

To tell if the child is overweight is not easy. Children grow at different rates at different times and amount of body fat changes with age. It differs between boys and girls. One way to tell is to calculate his/her Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. BMI of children is age and sex specific.

What causes a child to be obese?

There are various factors we discuss in our everyday life, some are

  • Lack of physical activity. Children are spending more time adhered to computers, mobile phones or other gadgets.
  • Eating more of highly processed food, like refined carbs, soda drinks etc.
  • Heredity also plays a role in some cases. We have no control over this part. The genes correspond to the function of the brain, influencing areas that play a role in our appetite and energy control systems.
  •  Psychological factors, some may eat more to overcome stress.
  • Some medications or medical conditions also may cause obesity.
  • Parenting style and family environment affects the behavior of child towards food.

Childhood obesity also leads to adult obesity and future health problems. Obesity has begun to afflict younger and younger children. 

Obesity is considered as energy balance problem but conventional calorie based theories are unable to explain this trend. Since six months old eat on demand and are often breastfed, it is impossible that they eat too much, and six month old do not walk, it is impossible that they exercise little. 

Then, what is going on here..?

It’s Insulin

The answer is simpler once we understand hormonal obesity theory. Insulin is the major hormonal driver of weight gain. Insulin causes adult weight gain. Insulin causes infant obesity.

Where would an infant get high insulin levels?

Studies show that increased maternal weight gain is strongly associated with increased neonatal weight gain. Because both the mother and the fetus share the same blood supply, any hormonal imbalances, such as high insulin levels, are automatically and directly transmitted through the placenta from the mother to the growing fetus.

Have you observed that a mother having gestational diabetes delivers baby with higher birth weight? Fetal macrosomia is a term used for fetuses that are large for their gestational age. There are number of risk factors but chief among them are maternal gestational diabetes, maternal obesity and maternal weight gain. 

What do these conditions all have in common? High maternal levels of insulin.

The consequence of too much insulin in the newborn is the development of insulin resistance, which leads to even higher levels of insulin in a classic vicious cycle. The high insulin levels produce obesity in the new born as well as the six month old infant.

Origin of Obesity

Both infant and adult obesity belong to same origin: Insulin

These are not two separate diseases, but two sides of the same coin. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus have three times the risk of obesity and diabetes in later life, and one of the biggest risk factors for obesity in young adulthood is obesity in childhood. Whose mother do not have gestational diabetes are also at risk. They have risk of metabolic syndrome.

Those who are obese in childhood have more than seventeen times the risk of obesity going into adulthood.


The sad but inescapable conclusion is that we are now passing on our obesity to our children. Why? Because we are now marinating our children in insulin starting in the womb, they develop more severe obesity sooner than ever before. Because obesity is time dependent and gets worse, fat babies may become fat children.

Fat adults may have fat babies in turn, passing obesity on to the next generation.

What we can do to prevent an overweight child?

First try yourself to adapt healthy eating habits, so that we no more pass on high insulin to our coming beloved generations.

Try to reduce intake of refined carbohydrates. Don’t eat highly processed food. Reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates will reduce insulin.

Reduce snacking frequency. It will prevent persistent high insulin levels, a key component of insulin resistance.

Stick to our basic homemade cultural food. Don’t rely on packaged processed food.

If we follow all this, we can automatically inculcate mindful eating habits in our children.

So, let’s do this for us and our future generations in anticipation.

About the author

Anju Rai Tiwary

Hi, I am a physiotherapist specialized in neurology. I have also done various certification courses like autism spectrum disorder and weight management. I am here to clarify your health-related curiosities.

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