Prevalence of Childhood Obesity May Be Leveling Off

May 27, 2008

The proportion of U.S. children with a high body mass index did not change significantly between 1999 and 2006, according to an article published in the May 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- The proportion of U.S. children with a high body mass index (BMI) did not change significantly between 1999 and 2006, according to an article published in the May 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Hyattsville, Md., and colleagues examined trends in the prevalence of three measures of high BMI in U.S. children and adolescents using data from the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. High BMI was variously defined as ≥ 97th percentile, ≥ 95th percentile, or ≥ 85th percentile of sex-specific BMI-for-age CDC growth charts.

No statistically significant changes in the prevalence of high BMI were found between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006, the researchers report. Combined analysis showed that between 2003-2006, 11.3 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 had a BMI ≥ 97th percentile, 16.3 percent had a BMI ≥ 95th percentile, and 31.9 percent had a BMI ≥ 85th percentile. Further analysis showed that there were no significant trends in the prevalence of high BMI between 1999 and 2006.

"It is too early to know whether these data reflect a true plateau or a statistical aberration in an inexorable epidemic," according to the authors of an associated editorial, who caution that "without substantial declines in prevalence, the public health toll of childhood obesity will continue to mount."

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