There may be two separate child obesity epidemics, one affecting young children and one affecting adolescents, according to new research.
The study, which was conducted by comparing obesity data in the 1980s to contemporary data, found that the influence of parents was key to the development of obesity in infants. In teenagers, obesity was influenced by broader peer groups.
The research suggests that it may be necessary to tackle obesity at different ages with different kinds of interventions.
Childhood obesity, which was described by Professor Terence Wilki, lead author of the study, as “one of the greatest health issues of our time,” can increase the risk of a number of related health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
The study also found that childhood obesity rates were largely confined to the children of obese parents. Among non-obese parents, childhood obesity rates have not significantly increased since the 1980s. The research suggests that tackling the problem of obesity would involve breaking a pattern of unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Professor Wilkin said: “If we are to develop strategies that intervene effectively, we must first understand the cause.
“This study indicates for the first time that childhood obesity has different causes, depending on the age of the child.”

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