Etiology, Treatment, and Prevention of Obesity in Childhood and Adolescence: A Decade in Review


  • I would like to thank Dr. David Berrigan (NCI) and Dr. Joyce Richey (USC) for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of parts of this article and Dr. Adar Emken (USC) and Javier Diaz (USC) for programming the map of global childhood obesity.

  • This work was supported by the University of Southern California's Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (National Institutes of Cancer U54 CA 116848) and the University of Southern California's Comprehensive Minority Health Research Center of Excellence (National Centers for Minority Health and Health Disparities P60 MD002254).

Requests for reprints should be sent to Donna Spruijt-Metz, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1000 S. Fremont, Unit 8, Room 4101, Alhambra, CA 91803. E-mail:


Childhood obesity has become an epidemic on a worldwide scale. This article gives an overview of the progress made in childhood and adolescent obesity research in the last decade, with a particular emphasis on the transdisciplinary and complex nature of the problem. The following topics are addressed: (1) current definitions of childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity; (2) demography of childhood and adolescent obesity both in the United States and globally; (3) current topics in the physiology of fat and obesity; (4) psychosocial correlates of childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity; (5) the three major obesity-related behaviors, that is, dietary intake, physical activity, and sleep; (6) genetic components of childhood and adolescent obesity; (7) environmental influences on childhood and adolescent obesity; and (8) progress in interventions to prevent and treat childhood and adolescent obesity. The article concludes with recommendations for future research, including the need for large-scale, high-dose, and long-term interventions that take into account the complex nature of the problem.