Childhood Overweight and Obesity: Introduction into Epidemiology and Prevention Strategies
Childhood overweight and obesity is a global epidemic with rising trends in both developed and developing countries. Overweight and obesity are major causes of morbidity during childhood and are important early risk factors for several adult morbidities and mortality. Although the mechanism of overweight development is not fully understood, it is confirmed that overweight occurs as a consequence of imbalance between individual energy intake and energy expenditure. Besides genetic factors, modifiable factors such as family behavior, cultural environment, personal lifestyle choices such as a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy dietary habits influence the development of obesity resulting in an increased ‘obesogenic’ risk in specific groups of children. So far, previous intervention programs have had limited success in tackling the rising prevalence of obesity. Thus, in addition to treatment and individual approaches, prevention programs targeting the obesogenic environment could be the key strategy for controlling the epidemic of obesity.
This article is aimed to present definitions as well as the epidemiology of overweight and obesity. Furthermore, it describes the current knowledge on the multifactorial etiology involving interactions among genetic background and different social and environmental factors. The article critically reviews the current body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of previous interventions to prevent the development of overweight and obesity during childhood. Finally, recommendations for future research are provided which is needed to improve and enable the prevention of obesity in children and adolescents.
Keywords: Behavioral prevention, environmental prevention, children, overweight, obesity, obesogenic environment, prevention, risk groups, childhood, morbidities, mortality, dietary habits, dyslipidemia, hypertension, hyperinsulinemia, chronic inflammation, diabetes mellitus, Population
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