Getting a grip on childhood obesity

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
May 27, 2008 6:38:42 PM PDT
It's no secret childhood obesity is a serious problem in this country. Now, however, there is some cause for optimism.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

One of the reasons that doctors are so concerned about fat children is that obesity can lead to other health complications like diabetes and heart disease. Every year, the numbers grow, with more and more children becoming obese. Now, researchers published a study in which they took a close look at the numbers, and they saw some positive signs.

Why are more children obese now?

Some blame it on fast food and high-calorie sodas. Also, fewer children are physically active.

Brian Gordon was one of them. It wasn't until he became active in sports that his weight came back down.

"I gained a lot of weight in middle school," said Brian, who then got involved in soccer, baseball and wrestling.

Dr. Cynthia Ogden , a researcher for the the National Center for Health Statistics, looked at the data from more than 8,000 children and teens ages 2 through 19 who participated in national health surveys.

Looking at body mass index from 1999 through 2006, she found obesity levels are stabilizing.

"This is over an eight-year period, and we haven't seen an increase," she said. "And that's that's good news."

Slightly more than 16 percent of American children and teens are considered obese. While the good news is that numbers are not going up, they also have not gone down.

And Dr. Ogden says there are very big ethnic differences, which are also a concern.

"By race ethnicity, particularly among girls, we see big disparities," she said. "Where about 28 percent of African- American girls, 20 percent of Mexican-American girls and about 14 1/2 percent of white teenage girls are overweight or obese."

There's still a need for children, teens and parents to get a very important health message.

"The main concern for teenagers is that if you're too heavy as a teen, you're likely to be obese as an adult, and that can be a problem," Dr. Ogden said.

Some experts say the drop off could be because more schools and parents are emphasizing better eating and more exercise. But the trend could also be a fluke in statistics, so we have to wait and see if the trend continues. It is the first time in 25 years that numbers of obese kids have not increased.

Researchers found that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to children ages 2 through 5. If you are concerned about your own child's weight, talk with your pediatrician.

For more information about this study, you can log on to www.JAMA.com.


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