An Assortment of Suggested Obesity Causes

Stanford Boy on StrollerThe introduction can be found in yesterday’s post, so let’s jump right into a pile of things that have been named as obesity villains. Childhood Obesity News neither endorses nor refutes these by listing them, but merely reports on the possibilities.

Both American and Canadian medical authorities have recommended that parents and caregivers arrange for children to spend less time being pushed around in strollers. Everyone understands that under some circumstances, a parent simply has no choice. But if walking is an option, choose it.

Some health experts warn that no child under age 4 should spend more than an hour at a time sitting down for any reason. Presumably, this would include car seats. On a long drive, it is probably a good idea to stop once an hour and let a child move around. It’s the type of preventative measure that may seem like a waste of time, in the moment, but turns out to have valuable benefits.

As we have seen, the Body Mass Index, or BMI, is only one method of assessing and comparing people, others being the skin-fold test, the waist-to-hip ratio, and bioelectrical impedance. They all attempt to describe a human body’s size, shape and composition. Several Canadian institutions collaborated on a study that was published in the journal Obesity. Its stated objective was:

To examine for the first time whether stressful mental tasks are associated with an unfavorable anthropometric profile in children.

Basically, they wanted to learn whether homework makes kids fat, and answer is yes, if the kids happen to be boys with a tendency to feel stressed by the demands of school assignments. Boys whose relationship with scholarly achievement is more casual do not seem affected, and for girls, it doesn’t seem to make a difference one way or the other.

Psychologist Suzanne Higgs of the University of Birmingham announced bad news for people whose jobs require travel. Being on the road can really mess up the body’s ability to send signals to itself. Reception is interfered with and interpretation gets scrambled. Other kinds of attention-splitting cause the same problem. For National Public Radio, Allison Aubrey reported:

Higgs recently measured the differences between people who ate their lunch, mindfully paying attention to each bite of food, compared with people who watched TV…or worked on their computers while eating…The sensory overload can really throw off judgment or inure us to the sensation of feeling full.

When people are not paying attention, their food has less taste and they eat more of it. Higgs showed that if experimental subjects are distracted while trying to enjoy lunch and are offered cookies later on, they will eat more cookies than the undistracted diners.

The same kind of sensory overload occurs in a noisy dining hall, a University of Manchester study found. As background noise increases, a person’s ability to taste both sweetness and salt decreases. Two years later another report, also from the United Kingdom, said the same thing. Of course when food tastes good, there is a temptation to overeat. But apparently the opposite is also true. If food tastes bland, or just generally doesn’t live up to the expectation of how good it should be, a person will compensate by eating more.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Strollers can make your kids sedentary and fat, says study,”, 08/28/15
Source: “Long duration of stressful homework as a potential obesogenic factor in children: A QUALITY study,”, 03/09/15
Source: “Year In Dieting: Distraction, Noise Cause Overeating (NPR),”, 01/01/11
Image by Glenn Beltz

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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