Childhood Obesity: A Growing Problem

Just by taking a look around, you can tell that obesity is a major problem in the modern United States. In the United States, roughly 17% of children ages 2 to 19 are considered to be obese. Making matters worse is that many of these children will carry their weight problems into adulthood.

Growing Up – and Out

Six in ten – according to a 2017 report from Harvard University researchers, that’s how many children living today will become obese at adults. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this harrowing study examined data from five previous studies. Thanks to these sources, the author could access and review data from nearly 42,000 adults and children, focusing specifically on heights and weights.

With this information at their disposal, the Harvard team was able to project the obesity rates of those aged 2 to 19 in the year 2016. What they found was highly alarming – of this group, well over half will be obese by their mid-thirties. This problem was especially pronounced among non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic children; even at age two, children in these demographic groups exhibited higher rates of obesity. Listed below are some of the most noteworthy findings of the study:
• 75% of obese two year olds will still meet the criteria for obesity by age 35
• Four out of every five severely obese two year olds will remain obese into adulthood
• For severely obese five year olds, the adult obesity risk is a staggering 90%

In an interview describing his team’s work, senior author Zachary Ward stated that “children have already gained enough excess weight in young childhood that it puts them on a trajectory that’s really hard to change as they grow older. […] When we look at trends in weight gain over the past 40 years, its not too surprising that we’re heading in
this direction.

Another study contributor, Steven Gortmaker, stated that the study serves as a call to action. “It is critically important to implement policies and programs to prevent excess weight gain, starting at an early age. Plenty of cost-effective strategies have been identified that promote healthy foods, beverages, and physical activity within school and community settings.”

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