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Childhood obesity rates remain high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese. These numbers are higher in the Hispanic and African-American population. And although some great steps have been taken to fight childhood obesity, much more needs to be done.



A new study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine about childhood obesity suggests that much of the damage or patterns for adult obesity may already be established by the time the child is five years of age, suggesting that early intervention may be the key to avoiding obesity later in life.

According to the childhood obesity study, children who enter kindergarten overweight will have a one in four chance of being overweight or obese by the time they are fourteen. Having baby fat as a baby may be normal; five years later, it’s an indicator that they may be obese as an adult.

How do we calculate childhood obesity?


 

While adults generally understand the terms normal, overweight, or obese based on a body mass index or BMI, parents more commonly refer to charts given by the pediatrician, which ranks their child’s growth as compared to other children in the United States.

Pediatricians recommend that most healthy children should have a weight between the 5th and the 85th percentiles; an overweight child is the 85th to 95th percentile; an obese child is above the 95th percentile.

How did the researchers conduct their childhood obesity  study?


 

In the recent childhood obesity study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers studied data from more than 7,700 children who started kindergarten in 1998. Researchers measured the weight and height of each child seven times in 1998 and all the following years until 2007 when the children reached age 14. At the start of the childhood obesity study, 12.4% of the children were obese, and another 14.9% were overweight.

The childhood obesity study provided information on a variety of factors for the children including sex, socioeconomic status, race or ethnic group, birth weight and kindergarten weight. According to researchers, at the conclusion of the study, “20.8% of the children in the study were obese and 17% were overweight. Half of the children who were obese at 14 had been a part of the 14.9% who were overweight as kindergarteners; 75% had been in the 70th BMI percentile or above.”

Interestingly, the researchers also noticed two trends: babies who were born heavier (over 8.8 pounds) had a greater likelihood of remaining obese at every age and children born to the wealthiest families were least likely to be overweight. Researchers also noted that children who became overweight were most likely to do so between the grades of first and third grade.

Conclusion from obesity study

This study reiterates what we already know: fighting childhood obesity is primarily the job of the parents. Schools and other educators can help, but parents must set a good example, provide nutritious foods for their children and ensure children get adequate levels of physical activity.
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