Uptick in severe obesity among youth in US: Study

An obese child holding onto a jar of sweets and snacks.
An obese child holding onto a jar of sweets and snacks.ST FILE PHOTO

MIAMI (AFP) - Childhood obesity is a persistent problem in the United States, and researchers said Tuesday (April 26) they found no sign of a reversal in the rising trend over the past three decades.

From 2013 to 2014, 33.4 per cent of children aged two to 19 were overweight, and 17.4 per cent of those were obese, said the findings in the journal Obesity.

"Despite some other recent reports, we found no indication of a decline in obesity prevalence in the United States in any group of children aged two through 19," said lead author Asheley Skinner, an associate professor at Duke University's Clinical Research Institute.

"This is particularly true with severe obesity, which remains high, especially among adolescents." The findings are based on an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey.

The rates documented in 2013 to 2014 "were not statistically different than those from the previous reporting period of 2011 to 2012," said the report.

Meanwhile, the prevalence of severe obesity - meaning the ratio of height and weight that makes up the ratio known as body mass index (BMI) was 35 or greater - rose among overweight youth.

"Among all overweight youngsters in the 2012 to 2014 reporting period, 6.3 per cent had a BMI of at least 35," up from 5.9 per cent in the previous reporting period, said the report.

"Another 2.4 per cent of those had severe obesity, defined as class III, which was consistent with an adult BMI of 40 or more," compared with 2.1 per cent in the earlier report.

In other words, some 4.5 million US children and adolescents have severe obesity, "and they will require new and intensive efforts to steer them toward a healthier course," Skinner said.

"Studies have repeatedly shown that obesity in childhood is associated with worse health and shortened lifespans as adults." Obesity among adults is also high in the United States.

More than one-third (34.9 per cent or 78.6 million) of US adults are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.