July 30, 2009

Severe U.S. childhood obesity has tripled

Rates of severe U.S. childhood obesity have tripled in the last 25 years, increasing the risk for diabetes and heart disease, an obesity expert says.

Lead author Dr. Joseph Skelton at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues compared data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

They looked at the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in a study population of 12,384 children, representing approximately 71 million U.S. children ages 2 to 19 years.

Severe childhood obesity involves a body mass index that is equal to or greater than the 99th percentile for age and gender.

Children are not only becoming obese, but becoming severely obese, which impacts their overall health, Skelton said in a statement.

The study, scheduled to be published in the September issue of Academic Pediatrics, found that the prevalence of severe obesity tripled from 0.8 percent to 3.8 percent in the period from 1976-1980 to 1999-2004. Based on the data, there are 2.7 million children in the U.S. who are considered severely obese.