Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Literature Review Draft

Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Literature Review Draft

HLT 317V

Grand Canyon University

Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Literature Review Draft

Childhood obesity is a major public health crisis nationally. The prevalence of childhood obesity has been increasing over the past few years. Childhood obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and calories utilized. It is said that one or more factors such as genetics, behavioral, and even environmental cause obesity in children; physical, psychological, and social health problems are caused due to childhood obesity (Karnik, 2012). More restaurants are developing “quick service meals” which are generally full of high calorie, high fat and high sugar content. Children nowadays are severally overweight and are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at a very young age. We need to understand that we cannot change technology and we cannot eliminate quick service meals. What we can do is use technology as a tool to help decrease childhood obesity. We can also make healthy choices when it comes to quick service meals. The goal of this literature review is to compare the reasons why childhood obesity is a crisis and what can be done to remedy it.

Beginning of Childhood Obesity

Obesity often begins in childhood and has been linked to psychological problems, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors in childhood. Because many obese children grow up to become obese adults, childhood obesity is strongly linked to mortality and morbidity in adulthood (Reilly et al., 2003). Close to one in three (32%) children and teens are either overweight or obese. In 1969, approximately half of U.S. children walked or biked to school, and 87 percent of those living within one mile of their school did so. Today, less than 15 percent of U.S. school children walk or bike to school (Centers for Disease Control, 2005); among those who live within one mile of their school, only 31 percent walk, and for those living 2 miles or less from the school, only two percent bike to school. Numerous studies have documented the link between sedentary leisure activities and poorer physical and psychological health; further, intervention studies have shown that lowering the amount of time spent in sedentary activities is associated with reductions in children’s body mass index (Tremblay et al., 2011). Because obesity disproportionately affects certain racial and ethnic minority groups in both child and adult populations, it underlies many of the health disparities facing our nation (Johnson, 2012).

Causes of Obesity

The per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup the mainstay of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages has increased from 38.2 pounds in 1980 to 868 pounds in 1998 (Chou et al., 2004). In 1942, annual U.S. production of soft drinks was 90 8 oz. servings per person; in 2000, it was 600 servings (Johnson, 2012). Soft drinks and juice drinks make up six percent of all calories consumed for 2 to 5 year olds, 7 percent for 6 to11 year olds, and more than 10 percent for 12 to 19 year olds. While children 2 to 11 years old get more of their calories from milk than soda, the opposite is true for youth 12-19 years old. Female teens get 11 percent of their total calories from sodas or juice drinks but only six percent of their calories from milk (Troiano, Brefel, Carroll, & Bialostosky, 2000). It will come as no surprise that the per capita number of fast-food restaurants doubled between 1972 and 1997, and the number of full-service restaurants rose by 35 percent (Chou, Grossman, & Saffer, 2004). In the 1960’s, only 21 percent of a family’s food budget was spent on dining out (Jacobs & Shipp, 1990). In 2008, it was 42 percent (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).

All in the Family

While researching childhood obesity; researchers look at the family dynamics and try to find how it relates to childhood obesity. The data that is collected is parents’ current weight status, impacts of subculture and poverty levels, family habits and routines – anything that would relate to childhood obesity, how the impacts of family structures are, key parental misperceptions, parents’ level of health knowledge. The next steps would be to take a physiological predisposition as well as a intergenerational transfer on childhood obesity; genetic proclivities – taste sensitivities, appetite – related traits, brain pleasure centers. Purchasing styles of food, dietary preferences, forms of weight control, what are the physical activity levels. Next step would be to look at parental and child interactions; parenting style and household climate, role of family meals, healthy home environments, family physical activity, overt vs covert parental controls, dealing with teen dieting, shopping and spending habits. At last is focusing on the child themselves. What are their current shortfalls in diet and activity, physiological predispositions: genetics, key goal – development of self-control, differential temperament difficulties, differential ethnic vulnerabilities, developmental learning and habit formation, Eating in absence of hunger (EAH), and understanding of weight and health issues. Taking these 5 steps/ approaches in finding the root cause of childhood obesity will help find ways to treat and teach how to make right choices. This approach was created by (Moore, Wilkie and Desrochers et al. 2017).


A thorough review of the literature revealed that childhood obesity has been increasing as the years have gone by because of food production and an increase of technology. Our children have found more joy staying inside and eating junk food versus going outside and enjoying nature and eating healthy. It is up to current generations to fix this for our future generations or there will be an increased epidemic of childhood obesity along with Type 2 diabetics, cardiovascular diseases being diagnosed at an early age. Obesity seems to affect almost every organ system in the body; in recent years there has been tremendous progress in the understanding of this problem and in strategies for prevention and treatment in the pediatric years (Goran, 2017).


Childhood obesity has been characterized as an epidemic by the medical community, leading to increasingly powerful calls for solutions. The consequences from childhood obesity goes so beyond just a physical health but also mental and emotional health; teasing from fellow classmates and peers which then can lead to other medical issues such as eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem and even a decreased quality of life. The children of poverty see both sides of the spectrum, malnutrition and childhood obesity. The literature reviews all lead to the family role in childhood obesity. Finding out the root cause of the child’s obesity issues doesn’t always stem from poor eating but also genetics and heredity traits. Being able to find these genetic traits can help the future generations by allowing them to know that they are genetically preconditioned to childhood obesity and their parents can plan accordingly to this data. Also teaching that as technology continues to advance we need to still have our children enjoy the outdoors and get daily activity. We live in a world where fast food and technology will be around forever. We need to be able to adapt and make choices and changes that will not only help us live longer but also help us teach our children the same values and ethics of better health.References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Barriers to children walking to or from school — United States, 2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 54, 949-952.

Chou, S-I., Grossman, M. & Saffer, H. (2004). An economic analysis of adult obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Journal of Health Economics, 23, 565-587. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2003.10.003

Goran, M. I. (2017). Childhood Obesity : Causes, Consequences, and Intervention Approaches. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Retrieved from

Jacobs, E. & Shipp, S. (1990, March). How family spending has changed in the U.S. Monthly Labor Review 20-27.

Johnson, S. B. (2012, July). Retrieved from

Karnik, S., & Kanekar, A. (2012, January). Childhood obesity: a global public health crisis. Retrieved from

MOORE, E. S., WILKIE, W. L., & DESROCHERS, D. M. (2017). All in the Family? Parental Roles in the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(5), 824–859.

Reilly, J.J., Methven, E., McDowell, Z.C., Hacking, B., Alexander, D., Stewart, L, & Kelnar, C.J.H. (2003). Health consequences of obesity. Archives of Diseases of Childhood, 88, 748-752. doi:10.1136/adc.88.9.748

Tremblay, M.S., LeBlanc, A.G., Kho, M.E., Saunders, T.J., Larouche, R., Colley, R.C., Goldfield, G., & Gorber, S.C. (2011). Systematic review of sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 898. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-98

Troiano, R.P., Briefel, R.R., Carroll, M.D., & Bialostosky, K. (2000). Energy and fat intakes in children and adolescents in the United States: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72, 124S-153S.

Trnkova, Ľ., & Balogova, E. (2019). Childhood Obesity – Risk Factors and Prevention. Polish Nursing / Pielegniarstwo Polskie, 71(1), 74–79.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Economic news release: Consumer expenditures – 2010. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved on November 3, 2019.