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Childhood obesity on the rise

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By David Liu

A new study in the June 26, 2009 issue of Academic Pediatrics found more children and adolescents now than ever have severe and morbid obesity.

The study showed the overall prevalence of body mass index which was equal to or greater than 99th percentile had increased more than 300% since 1976 and over 70% since 1994 in children aged 2 to 19.

Skelton JA from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC and colleagues analyzed nationally representative data from 12,384 US children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II, III and 1999-2004.

They defined a body mass index that is equal to or more than 99th percentile as severe obesity and a BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m2 as morbid obesity.
They found in 1999 to 2004, 3.8 percent of children had a BMI in the equal to or greater than 99th percentile. More boys than girls suffered severe obesity. They also found 1.3 percent adolescents aged 12 to 19 suffered morbid obesity regardless of race and poverty. 

Obesity prevalence was highest among blacks, followed Mexican Americans (5.7%) and whites (3.1%).

The researchers concluded "Rates of severe childhood obesity have tripled in the last 25 years, with significant differences by race, gender, and poverty. This places demands on health care and community services, especially because the highest rates are among children who are frequently underserved by the health care system."

The 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey suggests that 13 % of U.S high school students were obese.

The following statement is cited from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 6.5% in 1980 to 17.0% in 2006. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5% to 17.6%.1 Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetics and health.2 Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor.3 In addition, children who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.2,4 Obese young people are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.4 Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.2

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