Facts and Figures of Childhood Obesity

In recent years, childhood obesity has become a very prevalent and serious matter. For that reason, today’s focus is on the facts and figures of childhood obesity and the positive factors that accompany healthy eating. Check out our numerous lists below.

Childhood Obesity Facts

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in the past 30 years
  • The percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the U.S. who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012
  • The percentage of adolescents aged 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% in 1980 to nearly 21% in 2012
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese


  • Overweight: having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors
  • Obesity: having excess body fat
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance” (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors

Immediate Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure; in a population-based sample of 5-17 years, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem

Long-Term Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis
    • One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults
    • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma


  • Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases
  • The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, food and beverage industries and entertainment industries
  • Schools play a particular critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors
  • Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors

Benefits of Healthy Eating

  • Proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children
  • Healthy eating helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Healthy eating helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes
  • Healthy eating helps reduce one’s risk for developing obesity, osteoporosis, iron deficiency, and dental cavities

Consequences of a Poor Diet

  • A poor diet can lead to energy imbalance and can increase one’s risk for overweight and obesity
  • A poor diet can increase the risk for lung, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancers
  • Individuals who eat fast food one or more times per week are at increased risk for weight gain, overweight and obesity
  • Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can result in weight gain, overweight and obesity
  • Hunger and food insecurity might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and under-nutrition
    • Under-nutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development and school performance

Eating Behaviors of Young People

  • Most U.S. youth do not meet the recommendations for eating 2 ½ cups to 6 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Most U.S. youth do not eat the minimum recommended amounts of whole grains (2-3 ounces each day)
  • Most U.S. youth do not eat more the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium (1500-2300 mg each day)
  • Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2-18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets
    • Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources—soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk
    • Adolescents drink more full-calorie soda per day than milk