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Sex and gender differences in childhood obesity: contributing to the research agenda
  1. Bindra Shah1,
  2. Katherine Tombeau Cost2,
  3. Anne Fuller3,4,
  4. Catherine S Birken3,4,5 and
  5. Laura N Anderson1,5
  1. 1Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Neuroscience and Mental Health, SickKids Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Paediatric Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Laura N Anderson, Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada; LN.Anderson{at}


Childhood obesity is a major public health challenge and its prevalence continues to increase in many, but not all, countries worldwide. International data indicate that the prevalence of obesity is greater among boys than girls 5–19 years of age in the majority of high and upper middle-income countries worldwide. Despite this observed sex difference, relatively few studies have investigated sex-based and gender-based differences in childhood obesity. We propose several hypotheses that may shape the research agenda on childhood obesity. Differences in obesity prevalence may be driven by gender-related influences, such as societal ideals about body weight and parental feeding practices, as well as sex-related influences, such as body composition and hormones. There is an urgent need to understand the observed sex differences in the prevalence of childhood obesity; incorporation of sex-based and gender-based analysis in all childhood obesity studies may ultimately contribute to improved prevention and treatment.

  • weight management
  • precision nutrition

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  • Contributors BS and LNA developed the research idea and drafted the manuscript. KTC, AF and CB provided original ideas and reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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