Obesity affects a child’s physical and mental health and can cause other major health problems, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Sleep apnea

Obesity in children is measured by body mass index and age. A child who is obese has a BMI-for-age percentile greater than 95 percent. Children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults. Obesity can be caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Metabolism
  • Food choices
  • Activity levels
  • Environment

Treatment for obesity often focuses on managing weight with food choices and activity levels. Treatment programs may include working with a dietitian, psychologist and exercise specialist. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using the 5, 2, 1, 0 approach:

  • 5 — Eat at least five fruit or vegetable servings every day. Limit 100 percent fruit juices to 4 ounces a day.
  • 2 — Limit screen time to less than two hours a day.
  • 1 — Get at least one hour of activity every day: walk, play outside, dance, jump rope.
  • 0 — Focus on zero calorie drinks except for skim, fat-free or 1 percent milk.

In some cases with adolescents, bariatric surgery may be an option.