Pediatric Obesity

What is Pediatric Obesity?

Obesity is a disease that affects about 13.7 million children and teens in the United States.

Childhood overweight and obesity can be influenced by a number of factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and underlying medical conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight is an essential aspect of your child’s health because excess weight leads to medical conditions including high blood pressure, liver problems, asthma, joint pain, and difficulty breathing at night, known as sleep apnea.

Additionally, children who maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) throughout their childhood are more likely to maintain a healthy weight in their adult life.

Here at Endocrinology Consultants, we work closely with families to identify and examine the underlying causes of childhood obesity. From there, we create an individualized weight management program that is best suited for your child’s needs. Education about nutrition, meal planning, exercise regimens, and stress management are vital aspects of any weight management plan.

What Are The Causes of Pediatric Obesity?

Behavioral factors: Eating large portions, consuming calorie-rich/nutrient poor foods, excess screen time and insufficient physical activity

Environmental factors: Easy access to high-calorie junk foods, fewer physical activity opportunities

Genetic factors: Increased risk for obesity when at least one parent is obese. However, there are steps to take to reduce genetic risks

Genetic syndromes:Prader-Willi and several recently identified monogenic causes of obesity

Medications: Steroids, antipsychotic, anti-depressant, epileptic medications, and others

Hormonal conditions: Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and others

What Are The Risk Factors of Pediatric Obesity?

Being overweight as a child carries social implications plus increased adulthood risks for diabetes, asthma, heart disease, liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, reproductive problems, joint issues and some cancers. Psychosocial disabilities include social isolation and depression.

What Are Possible Treatments For Pediatric Obesity?

Treatment for childhood obesity is based on age and the patient’s medical profile. It involves lifestyle modification, changes in eating habits and physical activity levels. After a detailed assessment, an individualized program is implemented. Medications may be prescribed.

What Are The Risks If Pediatric Obesity Is Left Untreated?

Childhood obesity can lead to serious health conditions, both during childhood and well into adult life. For example, Type 2 Diabetes has classically been considered a disease of adulthood but its prevalence in children is on the rise, largely due to obesity.

How does obesity cause diabetes? Excess weight leads to the development of insulin resistance, a state in which the body struggles to efficiently utilize the carbohydrates from the foods that we eat. Over time, this leads to high blood sugars and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes mellitus type 2, if uncontrolled, can lead to numerous complications, including recurrent infections, poor wound healing, nerve disease, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Educating children and adolescents with obesity and insulin resistance about healthy behaviors such as meal planning and physical activity could improve future health outcomes. On occasion, medication may be necessary to treat insulin resistance and/or elevated glucose levels.

Additional risks may include: 

Skin: Stretch marks on hips and abdomen; dark, velvety skin (aka acanthosis nigricans) in area

Fatty tissue in breast area: Especially troublesome for males

Psychological: Bullying; poor self-esteem; eating disorders

Pulmonary: Shortness of breath when physically active; sleep apnea

Gastroenterological: Constipation, gastroesophageal reflux

Reproductive: Early puberty, irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair and acne in girls; genitals may appear disproportionately small in males

Orthopedic: flat feet, knock knees, dislocated hip

Meet Endocrinology Consultants

Dr. Maha Gopal is a Pediatric Endocrinologist who completed her Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, as well as certification in Pediatric Obesity Medicine. Dr. Gopal has extensive experience with children and families and is committed to providing the best... Learn More »

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