You’ll Never Guess These Surprising Causes of Childhood Obesity

Kids on a playgroundNearly one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, a number that has tripled from just 50 years ago. As a result, there has also been an increase in health problems previously unseen in young children, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and depression. Many of the causes are obvious (sugary beverages, fast food, inactivity and too much screen time are popular culprits) but others, like the ones below, are more unexpected.

Not enough sleep: Seven hours of shut-eye just won’t cut it for a kid. Children under two require 12 hours a night, three and four year olds need 10 hours and five to seven year olds should be getting nine hours. Without proper sleep, young children are 2.5 times more likely than their peers to become overweight or obese, and more likely to be obese by the age of seven. One possible reason: Hormones that regulate hunger are disrupted by sleep deprivation.

Restrictive feeding: When parents limit or hold back food, they may be making things worse. Children never learn how to self-monitor their satiation and the restriction can tempt children to seek out the forbidden food on their own, making them 1.75 times more likely to become overweight or obese as a result. Don’t go crazy with treats, but don’t completely cut them out either.

Playground proximity: Half of the children in the U.S. do not have a park or playground in their neighborhood. The convenience of a place to play has a big impact in how much a child moves. Without access, most children lack the incentive to head outside. Look here for a list of playgrounds around Michigan.

Childcare:More than 12 million children are looked after outside the home. And during that time, there’s no guarantee that your child is eating nutritious snacks or running around as much as they should. You can’t control every minute of your child’s day, but talk to your childcare provider about snacks and activities. If necessary, pack healthy food for your child to eat while there or look for a more active daycare center.


This blog post is part of #MIKidsCan, an initiative created by Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan to promote positive change in the health and well-being of Michigan youth. To learn more about the campaign, visit



Photo credit: Julian

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