Obesity

Boy in colourful jacket playing on a slide

Obesity is when a person has too much body fat. Being overweight or obese puts children and adolescents at higher risk of current and future health problems.

Overweight and obese children are above their healthiest weight. Obesity is a more serious form of being overweight.

Being overweight or obese is one of the biggest issues facing children and occurs when the energy they receive from food and drink is greater than the energy used through physical activity and growing. The extra energy is stored as fat.

Children and teenagers carrying excess weight are more likely to develop health problems such as heart disease and diabetes in adulthood. Some develop weight-related problems such as diabetes when adolescents.

Excess fat can also lead to early puberty and menstrual problems in girls, breathing problems during sleep, depression, hip and joint problems, kidney, liver and digestive problems, and high cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Helping children resolve weight issues improves health, wellbeing, social life and schooling.

Boy in colourful jacket playing on a slide

Who does it affect?

Who does it affect?

Our obesity research

Our obesity research

Obesity rates in Australian children have risen steadily and despite stabilising, too many remain overweight. We’re seeking solutions for better health for children now and the adults they’ll become.

We’re estimating the effectiveness of different approaches to childhood obesity, exploring obesity patterns through generations to learn what can disrupt patterns, investigating which early growth patterns are most damaging to adolescent hearts and are trialling ‘nudge’ interventions which target choices that underpin eating behaviour.

We’re researching links between childhood obesity and its health-related complications including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Projects include improving the clinical management of overweight and obese youth and investigating the role of the protein IGFBP-2 in obesity and diabetes development. The protein holds potential for the development of new treatments.

We’re investigating how early life exposure to infection might increase obesity risk and researching early life changes that lead to obesity including low-level inflammation.

We’re leading research to see if overweight and obese children and teenagers who lose weight regain it which may reveal at what age the body begins to defend a heavier weight.

Another project aims to reduce the number of babies born with low birthweight as this increases obesity risk in adulthood, and our Generation Victoria initiative is investigating obesity by following babies and parents.

A New Zealand collaboration aims to improve understanding of how what we eat as children and adults interacts with environmental factors and genes to determine obesity.

Our vision

Our vision

Our goals are to help people lead healthier lives by preventing childhood obesity and helping overweight children and adolescents return to healthy weights. This will prevent generations of overweight adults, associated health problems and premature deaths.