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Childhood Obesity

The rise in childhood obesity demands our immediate attention. This trend is concerning because obesity in childhood often leads to health issues in later life. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Europe has a high prevalence of childhood obesity: Today approximately one in three school-aged children and one in four adolescents are with overweight or obesity.

Living with overweight or obesity in Europe

1 in 3 school-aged children

1 in 4 adolescents

WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022.
Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2022. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity can be caused by various factors such as the consumption of sugary and fast foods, and high-calorie beverages that lack nutritional value. Sedentary lifestyles, often due to excessive screen time and reduced outdoor activities, are also major contributors to this problem. Additionally, low socioeconomic status can limit access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Inadequate urban planning that fails to prioritise safe outdoor spaces and a lack of supportive policies can also impede healthy lifestyles. Lastly, genetic predisposition can make some children more susceptible to obesity when exposed to an obesogenic environment.

Contributing Factors

There are several factors that contribute to the rising rates of childhood obesity in Europe, such as:

Decreased Physical Activity

Unhealthy Diet

Environmental Factors

Genetic Predisposition

Socioeconomic Factors

Health Conditions in Later Life

Childhood obesity can lead to poor health outcomes that may persist into adulthood.

There are also social and economic impacts related to childhood obesity. The cost of treating obesity can be a burden on healthcare systems and economies due to increased medical expenses and decreased productivity.
  • Type 2 Diabetes:
    Children with obesity have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases:
    Childhood obesity increases the likelihood of developing heart diseases, hypertension, and other cardiovascular conditions.
  • Steatosis and Steatohepatitis:
    Childhood obesity is associated with the accumulation of fat in the liver, leading to chronic liver inflammation.
  • Breathing Disorders:
    Obesity in childhood increases the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, which can cause chronic fatigue, hypertension, and poor academic or work performance.
  • Decreased Fertility:
    Childhood obesity is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and decreased sperm quality, leading to reduced fertility.
  • Joint Conditions:

    Excess weight can put pressure on joints, leading to musculoskeletal conditions.

  • Mental Health:
    Children with obesity may experience low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and anxiety due to societal stigma and body image issues.

How will Obelisk's research make a difference?

Childhood obesity is a pressing issue that requires collective action to mitigate its impact on the health and well-being of our children and future generations. By understanding its prevalence, causes, and problems in later life, we can work together to create healthier environments and brighter futures for our children. Follow our progress as we take steps towards a healthier Europe!

Obelisk aims to address the scientific challenges that have hindered progress in childhood obesity research. These include the lack of a comprehensive understanding of the biological pathways involved in the development of obesity, the need to consider socio-economic and lifestyle factors, and the scarcity of pre-obesity biomarkers to predict and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. In addition, there is a need for better clinical research and knowledge of lifestyle habits, environmental exposures, and susceptibility to co-morbidities. Obelisk will bring innovative solutions to this significant health problem in the EU, which could prevent the development of severe forms of obesity and related diseases. Importantly, the project has access to the most extensive EU cohorts of young patients with obesity to support our research.