An overview of pediatric obesity


Dr Warren WR Lee
Department of Paediatric Medicine
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
100, Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 229899


Abstract:  Pediatric obesity is increasing worldwide and disproportionately affects the economically and socially disadvantaged. Obese children are at risk of developing the (dys)metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, early-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obstructive sleep apnoea. Those with diabetes may have mixed features of type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Pediatric obesity is the result of persistent adverse changes in food intake, lifestyle, and energy expenditure. It may be because of underlying a genetic syndrome or a conduct disorder. Children living in urban settings often lack safe, affordable, and accessible recreational facilities. Tight educational schedules mean less free time, while computer games and television have become preferred recreational activities. More families are eating out or eating take-out meals and processed foods at home because of pressures of work and time constraints. Consumer advertising targeted at children and the ready availability of vending machines encourage unwise food choices. Some children eat excessively because they are depressed, anxious, sad, or lonely. Often families and obese children are aware of the need for healthy eating and exercise but are unable to translate knowledge into weight loss. Population-based measures such as public education, school meal reforms, child-safe exercise friendly environments, and school-based and community-based exercise programs have been shown to be successful to varying degrees, but there remain individuals who will need special help to overcome obesity. Overeating (e.g. binge eating) may be a manifestation of disordered coping behavior but may also be because of defects in the neural and hormonal control of appetite and satiety. New pharmacological approaches are targeting these areas. We need a coordinated approach involving government, communities, and healthcare providers to provide a continuum of population-based interventions, focused screening, and personalized multidisciplinary interventions for the obese child and family.