The health effects of childhood obesity on the obese child can be psychological, social, and medical. The risks of the health complications, which range across almost every system in the body, do need medical intervention and losing weight becomes very important.

Some complications are seen immediately (over the short term) during childhood itself. Others, you will see over the long term later in life during adulthood.

Obesity is a major cause of premature death. According to WHO, more than 2.6 million people die prematurely each year because of being overweight or obese.

According to ABC News, about 80% of obese children grow up to become obese adults. In such cases, the long-term complications of obesity manifest during adulthood.

However, the risks of these complications can be avoided if the cause of obesity is taken care of and the weight of the child is reduced. Usually, the cause is an improper diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

If proper corrective measures such as a weight-reducing diet and a proper weight loss physical exercise plan are religiously followed during childhood, all complications including the short and the long-term ones can be avoided.

Immediate complications  

Research done on the life of overweight or obese children shows that these are the health issues commonly associated with such children and adolescents as against those of normal weight. You will find more prevalence of the following problems with obese or overweight children.

  • poorer health
  • prevalence of disability
  • emotional and behavioral problems
  • failures in school exams
  • absentees from class resulting in bad consequences on the progress of education
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • poor self-esteem, anxiety, and depression causing adverse effects on mental health
  • learning difficulty
  • bone, joint and muscle problems
  • bronchial asthma
  • allergies
  • headaches
  • Early onset of puberty and menstruation due to hormonal imbalances (high androgen levels)

Long term effects

Long-term effects of obesity that appear during adulthood include psychological, social and health complications.

Psychological effects and poor mental health

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Social effects

  • Abnormal peer relationship
  • Tendency to keep away from social gatherings and get-togethers for fear of being ridiculed

Health effects

As mentioned above, the health complications of childhood obesity spread across almost every medical specialty. Only a few more ones that are common are mentioned here.

(A)Effects on the cardiovascular system

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Increased risk of ischemic heart disease (angina, heart attack) in adulthood

(B) Effects on the respiratory system

  • Obstructive sleep apnea manifests as repeated lapses in breathing due to obstruction of the upper airway caused by fat deposits in the neck. This causes a low concentration of oxygen in the blood.
  • Hypoventilation syndrome. In this syndrome, there is an inability to breathe deeply enough resulting in more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the blood.
  • Asthma

(C) Effects on gastrointestinal system

  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is characterized by fatty deposits in the liver
  • Cholelithiasis (formation of gallstones in the gall bladder)

(D) Effects on endocrine system

  • Impaired glucose tolerance. This is a pre-diabetic condition characterized by modest higher glucose levels but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This is due to insulin intolerance.
  • Diabetes type 2
  • Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by a combination of medical disorders, which include central obesity (BMI>30), high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and excess body fat around the waist.

 (E) Effects on nervous system

  • Benign intracranial hypertension. There is increased pressure inside the cranium and around the brain without any apparent cause such as a tumor or any disease of the brain.

(F) Effects on reproductive system

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is due to hormonal imbalance and results in the lack of ovulation, menstruation, and acne. This causes difficulty to conceive and become pregnant.

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