Childhood Obesity is on the up-and-up, and children are becoming obese at a younger and younger age, this according to a study published in BMJ. A large group of children were observed for a ten year period. The results were an increase in both weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) in children ages one month to four years. Interestingly, no corresponding upward trend in the height of the children was observed during the study.
So what is Body Mass Index?
BMI is a relatively quick, inexpensive and fairly accurate method to calculate health risk as it relates to height and weight. A lengthy calculation is used, but now days there are charts and even websites that allow you to enter your height and weight to obtain an immediate result.
For adults between 19 and 70 years of age, a BMI of anywhere from 19 to 24.9 is considered a health weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 to 39.9 is considered obese and over 40 is very obese. A BMI of less than 19 is considered unsafe and may represent malnourishment.
Although BMI was used in the study, for many years after its conception it was not commonplace for clinicians to calculate BMI on children and teens 19 years of age and under. That said, height and weight are measured at each and every medical check-up.
The study referenced above involved 43,000 children from England. The scientists recorded height and weight of infants ages 28 days to 90 days, and toddlers ages 35 months to four years. After calculating the latter group’s BMI, investigators applied the term “overweight” to those with a BMI above the 85th, and “obese” to those above the 95th percentile.
The proportion of overweight children increased substantially during the ten year period, from 14.7% to 23.6%. The percentage of obese children rose from 5.4% to 9.2%.
The infants did experience a slight increase in weight, however there was no increase in the number of infants whose weight exceeded the 85th and 95th percentile.
The investigators concluded that excessive weight gain in children occurred between infancy and preschool age, and that obesity prevention efforts should begin prior to preschool.
Weight Gain Could Persist Into Adulthood
William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that these increases in weight are likely to persist into adulthood. He expressed concern that Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise among children and adolescents, and that obesity increases their risk for cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Dietz called for a return to family mealtimes, promoting breastfeeding, encouraging physical play and discouraging sugary foods as a solution.
Intervention is necessary to thwart the rise in childhood overweight and obesity rates, which are now rising even among preschoolers.