Childhood Obesity Stats Increasing Since 1999
Some recent data seemed to suggest that rates of childhood obesity had stabilized or plateaued or even possibly reversed. New research seems to indicate that there has been a continuation of this weight growth pattern identified as obesity in kids for more than a decade.
Among infants through teenagers age 18, the rates of obesity have climbed between the years 1999 and 2014.
The numbers of children with extreme or morbid obesity has increased the most. One third or 33.4% of U.S. children were overweight in 2014 and about half of those or 17.4% were diagnosed with obesity (above 95th percentile of height and weight on gender-specific charts). Of those kids, most had Class 1 obesity (at 95th percentile) while 6.2% of all U.S. kids had Class II or Class III obesity (above 95th percentile).
Parents have a role in this obesity epidemic, since food habits begin in the home and risk for obesity is associated with parental obesity; even with feeding habits during pregnancy. Introducing children to sweets, processed foods and soda prematurely can also instigate risk of obesity. Parents may also be in denial about their child’s weight, which can make it difficult for a pediatrician to treat the condition seriously.
Current data show that rates of obesity among kids has risen from 14.6% in 1999-2000 to 17.4% in 2013-2014.
Of most concern is the fact that severe obesity has risen. Authors of this new study out of Duke University, University of North Carolina and Wake-Forest University report that any decline in statistics that had been suggested by experts was simply not supported by the current evidence. Small pockets of success in mitigating the rising rates of childhood obesity may have happened in California, New York, Philadelphia and also in some small pockets in certain Mississippi counties, but currently 4.5 million U.S. children and teens are diagnosed as “severely obese.” Among teens, 1 in 10 was classified as having severe obesity, with girls more likely than boys to become severely obese. Childhood obesity rates are especially fast growing and “stubborn” among ethnic minority groups.
These children will likely move into adulthood with persistent, severe weight issues, and be at high risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders, cancers and other chronic diseases, if they have not already begun to show signs of the many lifestyle-associated diseases. Experts find the data discouraging, but also point to the role that public health needs to play in helping to abate the obesity crisis. They identify the need for changes across the board – school curriculums need to bump up P.E. time, community and local parks need to offer safe outdoor resources, food manufacturers need to quickly adopt the new dietary nutrition panels mandated by the FDA, among other changes.
It is believed that the gains made in extending the average American’s lifespan will be countered and reversed in future generations if we do not arrest and reverse childhood obesity.