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Why is Teen Obesity Becoming a Huge Problem?

By Sandra L. Campbell ; Updated June 13, 2017

With the proliferation of fast food restaurants and convenience foods offered at grocery stores, teens face a looming health crisis -- obesity. According to an article on ABC News, “Most Americans May Be Obese By 2030, Report Warns,” more than half of all Americans will be obese by 2030 -- costing the U.S. $66 billion in disease treatment and $500 billion in lost productivity. Obesity is on the rise among teens and puts them at risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Understanding the factors behind teen obesity can help parents combat the problem.

Media Influence

An article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Childhood Obesity Facts,” states that the obesity rate for adolescents aged 12 to 19 increased from 5 percent to 18 percent from 1980 to 2010. During this time period, advertising for popular fast food and snacks has exploded on television, the Internet and social media. According to an article from the National Center for Children in Poverty, “Adolescent Obesity in the United States,” food marketers spent $1 billion dollars in 2006 marketing food to adolescents using the television, Internet and media devices like smartphones.

Poor Food Choices

With school, homework assignments and after-school activities, teens often eat on the go, which can mean selecting unhealthy foods like burgers and fries. According to an article on ABC News, “Obesity in America: Is It Out of Control?” Dr. Stacey Brethauer reports that a generation of teens has grown up on fast food. Fast food is usually calorie dense and high in fat, which makes it a poor substitute for regular meals. Additionally, teens and their families consume more prepared foods from restaurants and supermarket chains. As a result, teens are eating more calories and saturated fats.


In addition to unhealthy food choices, teens have reduced their physical activity levels. An article on the National Center for Children in Poverty website, “Adolescent Obesity in the United States,” reports that less than 20 percent of high school students participated in the recommended one hour per day of physical activity in 2006. Many teens also engage in sedentary activities, such as playing video games and surfing the Internet. This lack of regular physical activity gain cause weight gain because teens are not expending the high calories they consume.

Food Insecurity

Some teens live in “food deserts,” which are areas where people lack access to fresh produce and other healthy food. Living in a food desert can impact a teen psychologically by causing food insecurity, as reported by the National Center for Children in Poverty. Low-income teens and children who feel insecure about their food choices may purchase cheap, high-fat food, despite the bad effects it has on the body.

Effects of Obesity

The effects of the teen obesity crisis are staggering. An article on the National Center for Children in Poverty, “Adolescent Obesity in the United States,” states that one out of every six adolescents is overweight and one of three is at risk for becoming overweight. Obese adolescents are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. According to an article on the Let's Move website, “Health Problems of Childhood Obesity,” in a sample of 5 to 17 year olds, 60 percent of overweight children had at least one cardiovascular disease factor, while 25 percent had two or more factors for heart disease.

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