November 14, 2011
Across the United States, the growing epidemic known as childhood obesity is taking
over the lives of children, holding them back from fulfilling their utmost potential and paralyzing
them from proper development during the most crucial time of their lives. Childhood obesity is
one of the greatest concerns America currently faces. In the past twenty years, the numbers of
obese children in the United States have continued to dramatically rise. Most parents are
seemingly unaware or apathetic to the dangerous, painful, and misleading lifestyle they have
created not only for their children but also for the generations to come. Approximately 17% of
children and adolescents, from age two to nineteen, suffer from obesity (“U.S. Obesity Trends”).
While there are many factors that play into the cause of obesity, the spiraling effects obesity has
on individual children and society are much greater than expected. Obese children suffer from
failing to achieve their highest intellectual potential, behavioral concerns, and countless health
A child’s education is probably one of the most important aspects in their life; it sets the
foundation of their future and allows them to socialize and participate in a learning atmosphere.
Some may be surprised to find that proper nutrition is a key ingredient to a proper education.
However, meager nutrition prevents students from being physically and mentally engaged in the
classroom. Studies also show that a poor diet is associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder due to the preservatives, sugars and lack of thiamine found in junk foods (Boyer).
These learning defects, which prevent children from focusing in school, can be prevented
through the correct intake of wholesome foods. A variety of vitamins and nutrients must be
consumed on a regular basis in order to allow the human brain to be alert and function at its
maximum rate. Studies have proven that student’s test scores are affected as well. According to a
report by the American School Association, “Fourth grade students with a poor protein intake
scored lower on achievement tests than their peers with adequate nutrition” (Walker). Similarly,
these same students who skipped breakfast scored lower on problem solving tests that measured
for speed and accuracy. When the brain is not active and able to appropriately function
throughout the day, a child’s education is unconsciously being negatively influenced. A poor diet
can impair a child’s neural development, which leads to lower IQ (“Childhood Obesity”). When
the brain receives proper fuel, it is able to work quicker and more efficiently, thus allowing
students to test better because their capability of recalling information increases. A student’s
ability to obtain information, participation in class discussions, and do well on tests is at great
risk when poor dieting comes into play.
Proper sustenance not only benefits a student’s education through their ability to acquire
knowledge, but it also allows students to be more physically active at school. However, when a
student does not receive the correct vitamins found in foods, they lose their energy and become
lazy and apathetic. Studies have shown that deficiencies in certain nutrients cause anemia, a
condition characterized by the lack of healthy red blood cells and symptoms of weakness and
fatigue (Porter). Kids need energy to function throughout the day to make good grades and have
an opportunity to receive a higher education. Instead, undernourished students spend their time
sleeping in the classroom in attempts to regain the energy their bodies lose through the lack of
proper nutrition (Boyer). Boyer concludes that without enough carbohydrates, proteins and good
fats, a child may become lethargic and irritable. Foods high in calories and fat found in school
lunches and vending machines are consumed instead of vegetables and proteins. Without the
proper nutrition to fuel their bodies, kids are uninvolved, which fuels laziness and lack of
activity, thus creating a continuous cycle of obesity.
Self-image is a major concern resulting from childhood obesity that is often overlooked.
Many negative social and psychological ramifications are associated with obesity. Children
suffering from being overweight often suffer from behavior issues as well. Janssen describes the
struggle most students undergo at school and states that, “Overweight and obese school-aged
children are 1.8 times more likely to be the victims and perpetuators of bullying behaviors than
their normal-weight peers (Janssen).” Being a heavy child sets them apart from the average
student, allowing them to be a much larger target for harassment and bullying. Bullying can
often cause children to become bitter towards their peers and eventually towards themselves.
Because of the subliminal influence the media has on today’s society, many tend to frown upon
the lifestyle of the obese. Through the use of internet, television, billboards, and many other
forms of advertisement, America has created an icon of beauty only featuring slim characters just
to promote a company’s product. As these aspects are very common in today’s culture, it is
popular for kids to have a misconstrued viewpoint of “beauty”. This negative view causes some
children and adults, whether consciously or unconsciously, to socially reject overweight kids.
Through the rejection of peers, obese children find it harder to fit in and make friends and
become socially awkward. According to the researchers at the University of California,
malnutrition leads to awkward and anti-social traits throughout childhood (Thomas). When a
child is young, they are at their most vulnerable stage in life, as they are more self-conscious
about their image. They become aware of their aberration through the taunting of their peers and
often turn to self-rejection and depression. Research has shown that there is no clear one-way
connection between obesity and depression. Instead, studies have shown that the two seem to
feed off each other in a vicious, self-destructive cycle. Studies have also shown that obese people
are twenty-five percent more likely to experience a mood disorder such as depression compared
to those who are not obese (Thomas). This depression commonly contributes to more eating,
therefore adding to the weight of the person, which causes the continuous cycle to seem
unbreakable. The hopeless outlook obese children develop cause many of them to turn to suicide.
As reported by Science Daily, “Teens who believe they are overweight were at greater risk for
suicide attempts compared to those who did not believe they were overweight” (Swahn). The
American media causes obese adolescents to be insecure of their abnormality, feeding their
depression and hopelessness.
The most obvious effects of childhood obesity are short term and long-term health
issues. Some common and immediate risks that are associated with obesity are high blood
pressure, sleep apnea, dental issues, and joint and bone malfunctions. High blood pressure is an
early indication of heart problems, which may eventually become heart disease. Some kids
develop sleep apnea, which prevents them from breathing properly and receiving enough oxygen
throughout the night (Porter). Dental issues are another short term affect that is caused through
excessive intake of sugar (Porter). A diet consisting of many sweets creates a great amount of
plaque buildup and eventually cavities. Plaque buildup also triggers heart issues. Joint and bone
malfunctions are another major result of malnutrition (Porter). The defects that children obtain
at a young age prevent them from becoming highly involved in activities or participate in sports
during their adolescent years. Sisk reinforces these dangers claiming, “The rising prevalence of
overweight and obese children and adolescents further increases the risk of injury, not only
during a sport but also during daily physical activity routine.” The bones of a obese child are
much more frail and unable to support excess weight causing obese children to be at a greater
risk of breaking bones and have joint issues. These short term and long term health issues are just
some of the many issues children are to deal with because of poor nutrition.
Another long term effect caused by obesity is the effect it has on a child’s future. Once
this lifestyle of laziness and improper diet begins, children find it much more difficult stop their
vicious cycle of obesity. This emphasizes the importance of raising awareness for this issue early
in children’s lives before it is too late. For instance, obese children who attempt to work out and
exercise easily become disheartened. The excess weight causes them to quickly become fatigued
and holds them back from doing exercises most normal athletes find fairly simple. Because of
the excess amount of weight their bones are required to support, they also experience more pain
than normal weight children. Overweight children struggle to complete simple tasks such as
sprinting and making quick movements. Attempting to partake in athletics can often strip them
of their confidence, causing most kids to give up sports due to lack of motivation and fatigue.
Unable to break free of their poor eating habits as children, they continue a lifestyle of
inadequate nutrition into adulthood. Not aware of how to prepare and cook nutritious foods, they
are unable to lose their excess weight. A lifestyle of unhealthy eating follows them for the rest
of their life and eventually gets passed down to their off-spring, thus creating a cyclical effect for
future generations who have also adopted their parents poor eating habits (Sisk). However, the
greatest and most perilous long-term effects of childhood obesity are heart disease and type two
diabetes. Diabetes is one of the biggest concerns in recent years because of the rising number of
children afflicted with this disease (Sisk). Diabetes and heart disease spark the most attention
among Americans because of their severity. Each year, countless lives are taken due to the direct
and indirect health effects obesity has on children’s bodies.
Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic that affects lives in ways that can no longer
afford to be overlooked. Many underestimate the power and deception that lies behind these two
words. Childhood obesity is no longer an issue to be taken lightly. Whether one is walking down
the street or observing a lunchroom of high school students, it is almost impossible to disregard
the large percentage of adolescents suffering from obesity. The effects of obesity have become
increasingly evident in children’s education, social behaviors, and health issues. If a quick cure
for this perpetual crisis is not found, not only will the current society continue to be effected, but
an unhealthy status quo will be created for the future generations to come.
Boyer, Allison. “Effects of Poor Diet in Children.” www.ehow.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.
“Childhood Obesity.” http://aspe.hhs.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/
“Child Obesity.” http://childhoodobesityinfo.blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.
Dr. Kal. “Overweight Children Need Our Help.” www.drkalsweightlosstips.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17
Nov. 2011. <http://www.drkalsweightlosstips.com/overweight-children.html>.
Janssen, Ian. “Associations Between Overweight and Obesity With Bullying Behaviors in School-Aged
Children.” http://pediatrics.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.
Porter, Lisa. “LACK OF ENERGY, SLEEPINESS, & VITAMIN DEFICIENCY.” www.livestrong.com.
N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/485254-lack-of-energy-
Sisk, Jennifer. “Children’s Sports Injuries — A Weighty Issue.” www.todaysdieitian.com. N.p., n.d.
Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/td_0306p50.shtml>.
Swahn. “Teens Who Think They’re Overweight More Likely To Try Suicide.” www.sciencedaily.com.
N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/
Thomas, Dennis. “Depression and Obesity.” www.everydayhealth.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.