Can Children outrun obesity? A critical analysis of diet, malnutrition and healthy lifestyles

Despite the deadly connotations of poor diet, the balance between diet and exercise is hotly debated. Some research suggests that energy expenditure (EE) is the main factor of weight management (Fock & Khoo, 2013), and a child’s poor diet can be offset by an active lifestyle. I find it wise to support this hypothesis, to some extent. Note that the article references only weight, not disease, nor physical health. In no way can children outrun the consequences of poor nutrition, but they may be able to outrun excess weight and obesity (Kuźbicka & Rachoń, 2013). Despite this, there is still the risk of exercise addiction and anorexia to be mindful of, even if cases are rare when contrasted by obesity.

When examining the youthful demographic’s EE, children are more susceptible to sedentary behaviour, especially when in contact with technology/media (Pate et al., 2011). Children are disadvantaged by recent increases in sedentary communion (Loprinzi & Cardinal, 2011), while also being hampered by public transport increases (Rissel et al., 2012), decreasing the viability of cycling/walking to schools thereby reducing valuable exercise time. This skews the EE of children negatively, increasing chances of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, forcing more resources to be expended in decreasing the prevalence of obesity, while attempting to control treatment with current methods.

Finally, the development of programs designed to decrease the public overweight crisis have been moderately successful (Hung et al., 2015), but continued pre-emptive action is vital in a continual race against the growing obesity crisis (Wang, 2001). The WHO classifies obesity as a global, multinational epidemic. Worse, the WHO claims 40 million children under the age of 5 are overweight and likely to become obese in future years.


So that’s it right? Children with poor diets are doomed?


Recently, poor diet has been synonymous with obesity (Poti et al., 2014), but other side-effects of a “bad diet” can be similarly catastrophic, with malnutrition, dehydration and vitamin deficiencies as consequences of poor management of vitamins and macro-nutrients (Find here the NHS Eat-well plate, a simple guide to nutrition).

Exercise only worsens dehydration and it cannot replace macro-nutrient intake. A study by (Galler et al., 2010 pg. 798), suggests malnutrition can indicate depression between 11-17, and concludes that malnutrition independently contributes to depressive symptoms in youths. Furthermore, both malnutrition and diabetes have been shown to impair cognitive functions and signifies adolescent behavioural issues (Galler et al., 2012). Dehydration has a more telegraphed link to cognitive impairment and death, while vitamin deficiency has varied effects. Recent WHO  (World Health Organisation) evaluation classes Vitamin D deficiency as a global pandemic (Holick & Chen, 2008), as most of the populace believes sunlight is the sole source. This is not the case, as neither Ultraviolet radiation-B (UVB) rays or dietary supplements alone can produce enough vitamin D for a healthy lifestyle. (Holick & Chen, 2008).




Fock, K.M. & Khoo, J. (2013) Diet and exercise in management of obesity and overweight. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Vol. 28: 59–63. [Online] Available from:

Galler, J.R., Bryce, C.P., Waber, D., Hock, R.S., Exner, N., Eaglesfield, D., Fitzmaurice, G. & Harrison, R. (2010) Early childhood malnutrition predicts depressive symptoms at ages 11-17. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. Vol. 51, No. 7: 789–798.

Galler, J.R., Bryce, C.P., Waber, D.P., Hock, R.S., Harrison, R., Eaglesfield, G.D. & Fitzmaurice, G. (2012) Infant malnutrition predicts conduct problems in adolescents. Nutritional Neuroscience. Vol. 15, No. 4: 186–192. [Online] Available from:

Holick, M.F. & Chen, T.C. (2008) Vitamin D deficiency: A worldwide problem with health consequences. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 87, No. 4.

Hung, L.S., Tidwell, D.K., Hall, M.E., Lee, M.L., Briley, C.A. & Hunt, B.P. (2015) A meta-analysis of school-based obesity prevention programs demonstrates limited efficacy of decreasing childhood obesity. Nutrition Research. Vol. 35, No. 3: 229–240.

Kuźbicka, K. & Rachoń, D. (2013) Bad eating habits as the main cause of obesity among children. Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. Vol. 19, No. 3: 106–10. [Online] Available from:

Loprinzi, P.D. & Cardinal, B.J. (2011) Measuring Children’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness. Vol. 9, No. 1: 15–23. [Online] Available from:

NHS (2016) The Eatwell Guide. [Online] Available from: [accessed 27 March 2018].

Pate, R.R., Mitchell, J.A., Byun, W. & Dowda, M. (2011) Sedentary behaviour in youth. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 45, No. 11: 906–913.

Poti, J.M., Duffey, K.J. & Popkin, B.M. (2014) The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: Is it the fast food or the remainder of the diet? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 99, No. 1: 162–171.

Rissel, C., Curac, N., Greenaway, M. & Bauman, A. (2012) Physical activity associated with public transport use-a review and modelling of potential benefits. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Vol. 9, No. 7: 2454–2478.

Wang, Y.F. (2001) Cross-national comparison of childhood obesity: the epidemic and the relationship between obesity and socioeconomic status. Int J Epidemiol. Vol. 30, No. 5: 1129–1136.



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