Nutrition Diet and Weight Issues among Children and Adolescents - How Many Children And Teens Are Overweight?, Why Are So Many Children And Teens Overweight?, Health Risks And Consequences
bmi age body figure
One of the most disturbing observations about overweight and obesity in the United States is the epidemic of super-sized kids. A survey of adolescents in thirteen European countries, the United States, and Israel found that the United States, followed by Greece and Portugal, had the highest percentage of overweight teens (Inge Lissau, et al., "Body Mass Index and Overweight in Adolescents in 13 European Countries, Israel, and the United States" Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, vol. 158, no. 1, January 2004). In 2004 twice as many American children and adolescents are seriously overweight than were overweight just twenty-five years ago. While there is no generally accepted definition for obesity as distinct from overweight in children and adolescents, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than tripled (from 4 to 13 percent) and the prevalence of overweight among adolescents has almost tripled (from 5 to 14 percent) since the 1960s. (See Figure 4.1.)
With children and teens as well as adults, body mass index (BMI; a formula describing the relationship between height and weight) is used to determine underweight, overweight, and at risk for overweight. Children's body fatness changes over the years as they grow, and girls and boys differ in their body fatness as they mature. In light of these differences, BMI for children (also referred to as BMI-for-age) is gender and age-specific. For example, Table 4.1 shows the BMI of a boy as he ages from two to thirteen years of age, with a typical decline in BMI during the preschool years and subsequent increases. Despite changing BMI with age, the boy in this example remains in the 95th percentile—at the cut-off point for overweight.
Overweight is defined as at or above the age- and gender-specific 95th percentile on the body mass index. Still, even children at the 85th percentile are considered at risk for overweight- and obesity-induced illness and overweight throughout their adult lives. Figure 4.2 shows BMI-for-age percentiles for boys aged two to twenty, and
FIGURE 4.1 Prevalence of overweight* among children and adolescentsTABLE 4.1 Age, Body Mass Index, percentile
SOURCE: "Age, BMI, percentile," BMI for Children and Teens, Nutrition and Physical Activity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control, April 2003 [Online] http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-for-age.htm [accessed January 8, 2004]
Figure 4.3 shows the comparable sex- and age-specific BMI percentiles for girls aged two to twenty.
FIGURE 4.2 Body mass index (BMI) percentiles by age, boys aged 2 to 20 years
Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults—an estimated 30 percent of adult obesity begins in childhood—unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. Like adults, children and adolescents are eating more than ever and exercising less. Although the link between obesity and
FIGURE 4.3 Body mass index (BMI) percentiles by age, girls aged 2 to 20 years
disease in adolescence is weaker than it is for obese adults, teens who are overweight are at high risk of health problems later in life, and 50 to 80 percent of obese teens become obese adults. Type 2 diabetes, high blood lipid levels, and hypertension (high blood pressure) occur with increased frequency among overweight youth. Overweight
TABLE 4.2 Percentage of overweight children and adolescents by sex and race-ethnic group, 1988–94
Sex and race-ethnic group
SOURCE: "Table 1. Percentage of overweight children and adolescents by sex and race-ethnic group, United States, 1988–1994," in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Overweight among U.S. Children and Adolescents, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 2001 [Online] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm [accessed January 6, 2004]
children and teens are also at risk for psychosocial problems ranging from teasing and ostracism to social isolation and discrimination.
The most accurate data about the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Table 4.2 displays the prevalence of overweight by age, gender, race, and ethnicity from 1988 to 1994. The prevalence of overweight was highest among Mexican-American boys aged six to eleven and low…
Most children are overweight for the same reason as their adult counterparts—they consume more calories than they expend. Infants and toddlers appear to be effective regulators of caloric consumption, taking in only the calories needed for growth and development. By the time children are school age, this self-regulatory mechanism has weakened and when offered larger portions, they will eat …
The harmful health consequences of overweight and obesity can begin during childhood and adolescence. According to the CDC, more than half (nearly 60 percent) of overweight children have at least one cardiovascular risk factor compared to 10 percent of those with a BMI-for-age less than the 85th percentile, and 25 percent of overweight children have two or more risk factors. The most frequently oc…
In view of the rising prevalence of overweight youth, screening children and adolescents for overweight and risk for overweight has assumed a prominent place in pediatric practice (the medical specialty devoted to diagnosis and treatment of children) and public health programs. The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations for Preventive Pediatric Health Care advise a frequent schedule of acc…
In the absence of acute medical necessity, such as children who are dangerously obese, most health professionals concur that drastic caloric restriction is an inappropriate weight-loss strategy for children who are still growing. Instead they advise efforts to stabilize body weight with a healthy, balanced diet, increased physical activity, and education about nutrition, food choices, and preparat…
Overweight and obesity are among the most stigmatizing and least socially acceptable conditions in childhood and adolescence. Society, culture, and the media send children powerful messages about body weight and shape ideals. For girls these include the "thin ideal" and encouragement to diet and exercise. Messages to boys emphasize a muscular body and pressure to body build and even …
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