Potential circadian and circannual rhythm contributions to the obesity epidemic in elementary school age children

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Mar 7;16(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12966-019-0784-7.


Children gain weight at an accelerated rate during summer, contributing to increases in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in elementary-school children (i.e., approximately 5 to 11 years old in the US). Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 14:100, 2017 explained these changes with the "Structured Days Hypothesis" suggesting that environmental changes in structure between the school year and the summer months result in behavioral changes that ultimately lead to accelerated weight gain. The present article explores an alternative explanation, the circadian clock, including the effects of circannual changes and social demands (i.e., social timing resulting from societal demands such as school or work schedules), and implications for seasonal patterns of weight gain. We provide a model for understanding the role circadian and circannual rhythms may play in the development of child obesity, a framework for examining the intersection of behavioral and biological causes of obesity, and encouragement for future research into bio-behavioral causes of obesity in children.

Keywords: Children; Circadian rhythms; Circannual rhythms; Growth; School; Sleep; Summer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Seasons
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*