Childhood Overweight and Obesity
Obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. Data from NHANES surveys (1976–1980 and 2003–2006) show that the prevalence of obesity has increased: for children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 12.4%; for those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17.0%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.6%.
Obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. For example, during their youth, obese children and adolescents are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes) than are other children and adolescents.
Obese children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults. For example, one study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight at aged 10–15 years were obese adults at age 25 years. Another study found that 25% of obese adults were overweight as children. The latter study also found that if overweight begins before 8 years of age, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.
Defining Childhood Overweight and Obesity
Body mass index (BMI) is a practical measure used to determine overweight and obesity. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height that is used to determine weight status. BMI can be calculated using either English or metric units. BMI is the most widely accepted method used to screen for overweight and obesity in children and adolescents because it is relatively easy to obtain the height and weight measurements needed to calculate BMI, measurements are non-invasive and BMI correlates with body fatness. While BMI is an accepted screening tool for the initial assessment of body fatness in children and adolescents, it is not a diagnostic measure because BMI is not a direct measure of body fatness.
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