More than 1 in 7 children are obese, study finds

A growing number of American children are gaining weight at an early age, according to a new study.

In 1998, 72.9% of children entered kindergarten at a healthy weight, based on their body mass index (BMI), while 15.1% were overweight and 12% were obese.

More than a decade later, the proportion of overweight children entering kindergarten has remained virtually unchanged. But the proportion of obese kindergarteners jumped to 15.3% and the proportion of children with a healthy BMI dropped to 69%, according to the results of the study, published on July 5 in Pediatrics.

“These disturbing data indicate that the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States continues to grow and worsen,” said the study’s lead author, KM Venkat Narayan, MD, of Emory University at Atlanta, in a statement.

For the study, the researchers looked at data from two cohorts of children followed from kindergarten through fifth grade; one group entered kindergarten in 1998 and the other started in 2010.

Over the study period, obesity became more common among elementary school children and began to develop at a younger age, the analysis found.

Researchers identified obese children based on BMI. Unlike adults, children’s BMI is based on how their weight compares to other children of the same gender and age. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Not all children have the same risk of obesity, according to the study.

Among children entering kindergarten in 1998, white children had the lowest risk of obesity, at 13.7%, compared with 17.3% for black children and 19.9% ​​for Hispanic children.

Twelve years later, obesity rates in early kindergarten changed little for white and Hispanic youth, but increased by 29% among black children studied.

Poverty played a role. The highest obesity rates among kindergartners in 1998 were among those with lower socioeconomic status – a measure of income, occupation and education. These children had obesity rates of 17.7 to 18.1%, compared to 10.3% among children with the highest socioeconomic status.

Obesity rates increased the most among children from the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups, while remaining stable throughout the study period among children in the middle.

This suggests that “children from all walks of life are at risk for obesity,” the study team wrote.

When the researchers looked at data on newborns, they found that children with the highest birth weight — often associated with maternal obesity — had the highest rates of kindergarten obesity in 1998, at 16.2%. And their risk of obesity jumped 35% over the study period.

This cycle of obese people giving birth to children at increased risk of obesity could become harder to break if childhood obesity trends continue, the study team noted. Indeed, people who become obese during childhood and adolescence often struggle with obesity and weight management throughout adulthood.

Obese children are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and heart abnormalities as well as type 2 diabetes, liver disease and musculoskeletal problems, the team pointed out. the study.

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