Facts About Childhood Obesity In America

  • It is estimated that around 17% of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese. Which is more than 12.7 million American children. America has become an obesogenic environment that promotes inactivity and overeating. 

Our earlier discussion on belly fat has led us into different but related topics. Just the way this very post on facts about childhood obesity in America was inspired by the post on facts on obesity in America.

I am focusing on weight loss, obesity and fat related topics this period because that is the health problem that I would love to provide solutions to. Because it is a personal race that I have been able to finish successfully on many occasions.

As we already know, obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but it is the most difficult to treat. And that is why we are pouring more attention on the subject on this blog.

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world.

Youth who are overweight or obese have substantially higher odds of remaining overweight or obese into adulthood. Making them vulnerable to diabetes, heart attack and other dangerous diseases.

Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body-heart and lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract, as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty.

Generally, a child is not considered obese until the weight is at least 10 percent higher than what is recommended for their height and body type. 

Facts About Childhood Obesity In America

Today, about one in three American kids and teens are overweight or obese; nearly triple the rate in 1963. it is more common these days for children to be obese or overweight because of the many existing environmental and behavioral factors.

It is estimated that around 17% of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese. Which is more than 12.7 million American children. While among preschoolers 8% is obese. 1, 2

In the 1960s and 1970s only 5 to 7 percent of U.S. children were obese but today 17 percent of American children are obese.

Obesity often begins in childhood and is linked to psychological problems, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.

The reason for this increase is due to the fact that America has changed the types and quantities of food they eat, have reduced physical activity, and are now engaged in more passive leisure-time pursuits than before.

America has become an obesogenic environment that promotes inactivity and overeating. 

And they are not just overeating, they are eating too much of the wrong foods, in form of fast foods.

Fast food and convenience food although inexpensive is high in calories and low in nutritional value. 

One national survey found that 30 percent of children ages 4 to 19 years of age ate fast food daily (Bowman, Gortmaker, Ebbeling, Pereira, & Ludwig, 2003). 

And the numbers of american children depending on fast foods is increasing on a daily basis. In the 1960’s, only 21 percent of a family’s food budget was spent on dining out (Jacobs & Shipp, 1990). In 2008, it was 42 percent (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). 

Fast food is one of the causes of belly fat because it is poor dieting at it’s best. Apart from the usual excess calories that go into the making of fast foods in the form of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium is another excess addition to the mix that we really need to avoid.

Another factor when it comes to facts about childhood obesity in America is the amount of soft drinks that is consumed by theses kids.

In 1942, annual U.S. production of soft drinks was 90 8 oz. servings per person; in 2000, it was 600 servings (Jacobson, 2005). Soft drinks and juice drinks make up six percent of all calories consumed for 2 to 5 year olds, 7 percent for 6 to 11 year olds, and more than 10 percent for 12 to 19 year olds.

Facts about childhood obesity in America

Another factor that has led to increase in childhood obesity in America is lack of physical activities and too much time spent in front of the television.

In 1969, approximately half of U.S. children walked or biked to school, and 87 percent of those living within one mile of their school did so. Today, less than 15 percent of U.S. school children walk or bike to school (Centers for Disease Control, 2005); among those who live within one mile of their school, only 31 percent walk, and for those living 2 miles or less from the school, only two percent bike to school. A third of U.S. children go to school on a bus and half are taken by private vehicle (Centers for Disease Control, 2002).

Intervention studies have shown that lowering the amount of time spent in sedentary activities is associated with reductions in children’s body mass index (Tremblay et al., 2011).

According to the CDC obesity prevalence was 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds.

With Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic blacks (22.0%) having higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites (14.1%). While non-Hispanic Asians (11.0%) had lower obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.

When viewed from an economic standpoint, it was discovered that obesity prevalence was 18.9% among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in the lowest income group, 19.9% among those in the middle income group, and 10.9% among those in the highest income group.

It was also reported that obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group among non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic boys.

Additional Surveys

  • Only 5% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 were considered overweight in a 1971-1974 survey, while 13.9% of children at this age were overweight in a more recent 2003-2004 survey
  • Only 4% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered overweight in a 1971-1974 survey, while 18.8% of children at this age were overweight in a more recent 2003-2004 survey
  • Only 6.1% of children between the ages of 12 and 19 were considered overweight in a 1971-1974 survey, while 17.4% of children at this age were overweight in a more recent 2003-2004 survey 3

Obesity is more common in boys than girls (19 percent versus 15 percent). The obesity rates in boys increased significantly between 1999 and 2010, especially among non-Hispanic black boys; but obesity rates in girls of all ages and ethnic groups have stayed largely the same. 

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. infants had a high “weight for recumbent length”-a measure that’s similar to the body mass index but used in children from birth to age 2. 

From 1999 to 2010, Mexican American infants were 67 percent more likely to have a high weight for recumbent length than non-Hispanic white infants. 4

Americans now eat 31 percent more calories than was the norm forty years ago–including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.

Eight to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including, TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies, and only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity. 5

Always check back. This post on the facts about childhood obesity in America will get updated in the future.


  • Bowman, S.A., Gortmaker, S.L., Ebbeling, C.B., Pereira, M.A., & Ludwig, D.S. (2003). Effects of fast-food consumption on energy intake and diet quality among children in a national household survey. Pediatrics, 113, 112-118.
  • Jacobs, E. & Shipp, S. (1990, March). How family spending has changed in the U.S. Monthly Labor Review (PDF, 693KB), 20-27.
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