Staying “Heavy” Through Life Linked with Highest Mortality Rate
If you develop obesity as a child or teen, then the odds are that you will stay obese throughout your life. A new study suggests that people who have a heavy body shape throughout life, from childhood through middle age, have the highest mortality. The study, published in the British Medical Journal adds a new reason why limiting obesity is crucial.
Obesity facts and statistics
Obesity is now a worldwide public crisis. World Health Organization (WHO) statistics last updated in January 2015:
• Worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980
• In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years or older were overweight. Among them 600 million were obese.
• Currently being overweight or obese causes more deaths in countries than being underweight.
• 42 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese in 2013
• Childhood obesity in the U.S. had more than doubled in the last 30 years
• In 2012, more than one third of U.S. children were overweight or obese
• Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
• Obese teens are more likely to have prediabetes
• Children and teens with obesity are at greater risk of bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and stigmatization and poor self-esteem
Most experts know that if you develop weight issues as an infant, child or teen, you are likely to remain overweight or obese for life.
Risk factors for developing obesity as an infant or child
There are a variety of issues that can contribute to childhood obesity. They include:
• If your mother before or during pregnancy was obese, you are more likely to be at risk.
• If your mother had gestational diabetes, you are more likely to develop childhood obesity.
• If both parents are obese
• Watching more than 8 hours of TV weekly by age 3
• Significant weight gain in the first year of life (due to diet,lack of crawling and physical activity)
• Poor quality of sleep as a child, or less than optimal sleep hours
• Being born premature
• Having certain ethnicities (African American, American Indian, Hispanic)
• Lower socioeconomic standard of living
The study – A review of two large cohort studies
Among participants in both the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study 80,266 women and 36, 622 men noted their body shapes at age 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of age. They provided their BMI at age 50 and were then followed from age 60 on. They answered very detailed questionnaires on lifestyle and health every two years and on diet every four years.
The researchers identified five distinct body shapes from age five to fifty: lean-stable, lean-moderate increase, lean-marked increase, medium-stable/increase and heavy-stable/increase.
Compilation and interpretation of the data revealed that individuals who remained lean throughout life had the lowest mortality. Those who reported being heavy as a child and remaining heavy throughout life till their middle age had the highest mortality. The researchers concluded that the findings provide further urgency to create recommendations for weight management and to help avoid weight gain in childhood, as well as in adult years, if you were lean to start.
A second study also confirmed that increasing BMI through life is associated with a higher risk of premature death. Of course if you add in other poor lifestyle habits, like smoking, you further increase the risk of a premature death.
The researchers did acknowledge that current dietary and other weight management tools are not effective for most individuals who are diagnosed as being severely overweight or obese.
What can you do to help your child or teen avoid obesity?
Some tips from the American Heart Association to help limit childhood obesity:
• Make fruits and vegetables a big part of daily meals
• Include low fat and fat free dairy products daily
• Make water and one to two serving of 15 or fat free milk (after age one) primary beverages
• Limit soda and juices
• Serve children smaller, appropriate portions
• Emphasize lean proteins including fish, lentils and beans
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