Obesity is caused by three main factors:

The main cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. According to the WHO(1), globally, there has been:

  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars; and
  • an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Unhealthy diet (high-fat diet)

The first and main cause of childhood obesity is an unhealthy diet (too rich in sugar and fats and not enough fiber and carbohydrate). These are usually the kinds that people buy from fast food shops. They include buttery foods, cheese, and lots of oils and salt. Some parents also cook foods like cake, bacon burgers, potato fries, ice-creams, and double cheese pizzas. Sometimes eating too much can also make you fat, even if it’s healthy food.

Foods that are high in fats, sugar and salt
Foods that are high in fats, sugar, and salt
Lack of physical activity and exercise

Child obesity can also result from sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise. It includes sitting at one place all the time, and not making any attempt to move around or exercise. e.g. sitting around a lot, or watching TV for long hours of the day. If this habit is not matched with regular exercise to burn off the fat, it can result in obesity over time.

Medical condition or medications

It could be a medical problem of not being able to control hunger or, the effect of some medicines that you take.  In some cases, underlying medical conditions may contribute to weight gain. These include:

  • your thyroid gland not producing enough hormones
  • a rare disorder called Cushing’s syndrome, that causes the over-production of steroid hormones
  • certain medications for epilepsy and diabetes

If these conditions are properly diagnosed and treated, they should pose less of a barrier to weight loss. If this is what seems to be a problem for you or a friend, it is most important to speak to your doctor immediately. Your doctor can always advise on what you can do.

Reading Sources

Overweight and Obesity: Key Facts: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight Accessed in Feb 2021

Causes: Obesity NHS UK, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/causes/ Accessed in Feb 2021