Study Examines Patterns of Obesity Between Childhood and Adolescence
The effects of childhood obesity can stretch into the teen years, but little is known about how body mass index (BMI) is related to other changes taking place as children enter adolescence. In the study, "Changes in Obesity Between Fifth and Tenth Grades: A Longitudinal Study in Three Metropolitan Areas," in the December 2014 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 10), researchers randomly selected 3,961 public school students in various U.S. metropolitan areas. Each child, along with a parent, was measured for height and weight in fifth and 10th grades using standard gender-specific growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fifth grade, 1 percent of students were underweight, 53 percent were normal weight, 19 percent were overweight, and 26 percent were obese. Sixty-five percent of obese fifth-graders remained obese in 10th grade, 23 percent transitioned down to overweight, and only 12 percent became normal weight. Highlighting the stability, 83 percent of obese 10th graders were also obese at fifth grade. Normal-weight fifth graders also remained relatively stable, with 87 percent staying at normal weight. Obese fifth graders were more likely to remain obese in 10th grade if they perceived themselves to be much heavier than ideal or came from a less educated household. However, overweight fifth-graders were more likely to become obese by 10th grade if they had an obese parent or watched more television. Study authors conclude that obese children face many challenges in reducing obesity in adolescence. Clinicians are encouraged to educate parents and caregivers to address obesity at a very young age, including advice on healthy eating and physical activity.