Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that may often continue into adulthood (see appendix2). This paper studies the nature and causes of obesity in children. It will focus on the origins of obesity; how family eating patterns are a crucial factor and environmental and lifestyle; genetic inheritance; lifestyle and eating habits which all play an important part in childhood obesity. The long-term effects of obesity will be discussed and how we can prevent such illness.

Firstly, it is important to gain an understanding of what obesity is. According to Wlardlow (Journal of the Hela, 2000, vol. 7) obesity is defined as a condition characterised by excess body fat. It is also defined as being 20% above the average weight.

Generally consumption of foods high in sugar and fats lead to obesity. Alcohol intake can also contribute to the condition due to its high sugar content. Obesity is a serious medical disease that affects 20%-25% of children and adolescents in Australia. It is the second leading cause of preventable death after smoking (Ross Fitzgerald, Courier Mail, Nov. 2000). According to research, we all have and need fat tissue in our bodies. When there is too much body fat, the result is obesity (The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 1996). Obesity can be measured by calculating the BMI. BMI, Body Mass Index is a mathematical calculation used to identify overweight to identify overweight and obesity in children and adolescent (refer to appendix 1).


There are many factors that contribute to causing obesity including: physical activity, lifestyle, eating habits, environment, family and genetic inheritance (www.obesity.org and Vatta, Antonietta 2000). The environment in which the child is in has a great impact on how healthy the child will be. A healthy environment that promotes healthy diet is one that encourages the consumption of nutritious foods at a reasonable amount and regular physical activities. However, according to a recent survey conducted most students obtain their junk food from KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Hungry Jacks or the school~{!/~}s tuckshop (see survey, appendix 3). This indicates that advertising of high-calorie foods promotes obesity in children and adolescents. Therefore, a healthy environment created at home, school and beyond can assist in weight control efforts.

Adopting healthy habits for lifetime weight control includes regular physical activity and nutritious eating. However, it could be argued that the life style of today~{!/~}s children and adolescents is too sedentary. Recent research (Mr. Anthony, Courier Mail, Feb. 2002, pg. 29) shows that 60% of Australian children are involved in sports group, however 95% of Australian children spend 20 hours of watching television, playing Nintendo and computer games or surfing the Internet. According to a recent survey conducted most students don~{!/~}t do exercise at all, yet they spend about 13 hours of television and surfing the Internet (not including hours of study) and consuming junk food everyday (see appendix 3). Poor eating habits means that the children are at higher risk (refer to appendix 6). Eating patterns that have been related with over-consumption of high calorie foods are eating when not hungry, before main meals, while watching television and doing homework (see survey question 9, appendix 3). Psychologist, John Irvine states that parents should set the example for their children. ~{!0~}Kids are much more likely to copy than learn from a lecture, so we have to get more active for our kids,~{!1~} he said. Mr. Anthony (refer to appendix 7) also states that parents should be encouraging their children to get active and setting a good example. This shows that what children learn about eating habits and nutrition from their parents has a direct impact on what they will eat.