Welcome to Childhood Obesity News

Grande e Pequena

Welcome to Childhood Obesity News, the blog of Dr. Robert Pretlow. This site explores the many physical, social, political, and personal effects of the global childhood obesity crisis. We look at new research that points toward addictive eating behavior and also look at Dr. Pretlow’s research in the field.

An overview of recent topics:

Sugar Addiction

A four-part series looking at the impact of sugar addiction on children and adults:

Part 1 – literal cost of sugar, including yearly government subsidies worth $65 million
Part 2 – the controversy around fructose
Part 3 – how far sugar impacts our population (75 million Americans with metabolic syndrome!)
Part 4 – how costly sugar addiction is for American health, especially in terms of cancer (10 years from now, the annual cost of American cancer is predicted to be $158 billion!)

Motivation and Self Image

Formerly Fat (a multi-part series) includes profiles of many, including actor Corey Stoll and writer/producer Matt Mira.

Stress and Weight

Children, Grownups, Stress and Obesity (a multi-part series)
Boredom as a Stressor
Stress and Displacement Activity

Dr. Pretlow’s Obesity Research

We cover Dr. Pretlow’s latest research and conference presentations, too. Here are a few:

A Selection of Conference Papers
Food Addiction in Children
Dr. Pretlow’s App Study

If you would like to contact Dr. Pretlow, or have questions, please see our FAQ page.

Does Addiction Cause Childhood Obesity?

[montage of junk food]
[montage of junk food]
This site covers the social, political, economic, and health impacts of childhood obesity. A common thread that runs through our site is the exploration of food addition. Food addiction remains a controversial topic; many are in denial it is even possible. Yet being an obese child is a major contributor to debilitating diseases and even premature death.

The Case for Food Addiction

Processed Foods and Fast Food
We are surrounded by hyper-palatable, processed foods. These foods have high combinations of sugar, salt, and fat. They may also contain chemicals that encourage repeated consumption. All of these substances can be interpreted by the brain the same circuits as alcohol and drugs. This combination can be disastrous for young brains and their development. (Do major food companies care? That’s another discussion!)

Read more about topics related this issue:

It’s Official: Food Addiction is Real
Childhood Obesity and GMOs
Sugar, Addiction, and Sugar Addiction

Politics and Regulation
The notion of “personal responsibility” is fair when discussing adults. But is it fair to assert that on children, or on addicts? Should we implement more legislation to protect our children? Where do we as a society draw the line? Or, do we need some other other approach, such as making our streets more walkable and bike able to encourage healthier lifestyles?

Read more about this hotly debated issue:

Whatever Happened to the Cheeseburger Bill?
How Effective is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Campaign?
Stop Federal Corn Subsidies to Decrease Childhood Obesity

Shame of Addiction
As a society we don’t talk about food addition in part because it hasn’t been formally recognized by the DSM-5 — although gambling addiction was recently added. As a society we still largely and collectively moralize addiction as a character flaw rather than a chemical dependency. We hope this site helps change that perception and provide empathy for children fighting with their weight. Unfortunately, fat acceptance can hurt, too.

Thanks for joining us. We look forward to your comments here.

Child Obesity: FAQs and Greatest Hits

children on park merry-go-round

This site is dedicated to exploring the physical, social, emotional, and political issues surrounding childhood obesity.

We invite you to explore some of our most popular — and controversial — posts and series. Here are a few examples:

Why is childhood obesity such a problem right now?

From food engineering to global marketing to the explosion of the video game industry, the world changed in several different ways over the past few decades. Dr. Pretlow calls this the “perfect storm” that led to the childhood obesity epidemic.

Why is fast food such a problem?

Fast food is inexpensive, easy to find everywhere, and tastes good once you get used to it. Dr. Pretlow and many other people believe that fast food is purposely designed to “hook” people into being addicted to it.

Why do many obese children suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain forms of cancer?

Those are a lot of questions! Here is an article about the beginnings of diabetes.

Can a child die from being overweight? 

Yes. When a person is so heavy that it’s life-threatening, that’s called morbid obesity.

What kinds of food make children fat?

Junk food is obviously bad, but a greater, largely unappreciated force is sugar.

Why don’t children just go outside and play more?

One reason is, the computer or TV gives an immediate reward, something to feel  good about right away. With exercise, the playing itself feels good, but the real rewards — such as a long, healthy life — don’t show up right away. Also, unfortunately, some children don’t live in places where it’s safe to play outside, and few school districts allow or encourage walking or biking to school.

Image by Ryan Schroeder

Can Childhood Cooking Lessons Prevent Obesity?

mayo recipe

Bedtime stories are important — but it looks like childhood cooking lessons are increasingly important too.

Learning to cook can be one key to childhood obesity prevention and a lifelong association with healthy eating. There’s just one (big) problem: Have you received cooking lessons growing up?

For many parents today the answer is no. Their working parents were too harried to teach cooking, and modern life seemed to go along with food convenience. Additionally, “home economics” courses were struck from the national curriculum as “old-fashioned” or to streamline budgets, and kicked to the curb alongside arts and physical education.

As a result, many parents today parents lack cooking knowledge and experience themselves. This places all of us at a huge disadvantage… and exactly where the food industry would prefer to keep us.

It’s no secret that an intentionally deskilled population makes for greater consumer dependency.

“You’re not going to reform the way we farm and process food unless you cook. Local food isn’t going to get big if people aren’t cooking. If you let corporations cook for you, they’re going to buy food from the biggest monocultures,” author Michael Pollan tells Michelle Edelbaum in the May/June 2013 issue of EatingWell magazine.

In Pollan’s newest book, Cooked, he writes that learning to cook can help “people living in a highly specialized consumer economy reduce their sense of dependence and achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency.” It is not just a matter of self-esteem. It is a matter of self-preservation in the form of harm reduction. Yes, reduced harm from the corporate food interests that do not have anyone’s well-being ahead of profits. Enter, Slow Food, kiddie-style.

People who know how to cook tend to have a lot of advantages. For instance, they know how to budget and plan. By cooking and preparing meals they may also avoid many of the hyper-formulated sugary/salty/and fatty factory foods that lead to food addiction writes at WebMD that learning to cook may also help you resolve some psychological issues with food, too.

Cooking — at age-appropriate levels — can teach the following:

  • Proper planning — everything from how to purchase, grow, obtain, or recombine ingredients and leftovers;
  • Budgeting, so meals offer the best financial value while still being tasty and varied;
  • Nutrition basics to ensure children learn how to eat and prepare a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources;
  • Time management to prep or prepare a meal in its entirety;
  • Measurement, units, and mathematics — and some science — to ensure baked goods rise and water boils.

That’s not all the benefits.

Let’s not forget cooking can also enhance reading skills, offer the opportunity to explore different cultures and/or historical lessons, and expand the palate so kids will be more willing to try new foods as adults. Also, you appreciate food you prepare yourself more. It is less likely to be wasted and less likely to be binged.

Although daunting, parents can teach themselves plenty by attempting a recipe first and and then teaching it to their children. Timothy Ferris, author of The Four Hour Chef, claims people can learn to cook in just four hours using his DISSS method: deconstruction, selection, sequencing, and stakes. The last part, stakes, refers to setting an incentive deadline to learn — perhaps cooking a large meal for guests at an upcoming holiday.

Cooking is one of those activities where families can learn and enhance their skills together. Today’s parents are no less harried and busy, but as Pollan tells Edelbaum, for too long we’ve put pressure on the kitchen to save time. We burn that time elsewhere, but cooking “[Is] important — for your health, your family life and your sanity.”

Of course, cooking and baking can also be creative outlets. Who knows what child will grow up to be a star chef? Perhaps more powerful, which child will grow into a superstar parent who can share cooking skills with another generation?

Source: “EatingWell Interviews Author Michael Pollan About His Book, ‘Cooked,'” EatingWell, May/June 2013
Source: “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” MichaelPollan.com, 05/23/13
Source: “Children and Food,” Slow Food USA
Source: “Healthy Cooking Tricks,” WebMD
Source: “Can You Really Learn to Cook in Four Hours?,” Daily Mail, 01/27/13
Image by Frances.

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

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.

Food & Health Resources