Enhanced obesity prevention services needed during very early childhood.
Current estimates indicate that millions of American adults and children have developed obesity. If these trends continue, at least 57% of today’s children will develop obesity by age 35, according to a new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors also discovered that a high body mass index during childhood can predict obesity as an adult, with children at a healthy weight having a less than 50% chance of becoming obese as an adult.
These findings suggest that more work is needed to combat the obesity epidemic currently facing the United States, according to the authors.
“Adult obesity is linked with increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” said lead author Zachary Ward, MPH. “Our findings highlight the importance of prevention efforts for all children as they grow up, and of providing early interventions for children with obesity to minimize their risk of serious illness in the future.”
In the study, the authors used a novel computational method and statistical approach to model long-term trends in weight gain. Height and weight data were pooled for 41,567 children and adults.
The authors developed 1000 virtual populations of 1 million children up to 19 years of age whose heights and weights were projected up to age 35.
The new findings suggest that a majority of children will develop obesity as they age. Approximately half of those predicted to have obesity by adulthood will develop it during childhood, according to the study.
Excess weight during childhood may also present challenges. The authors discovered that 3 out of 4 children aged 2 years with obesity will still have the condition at 35 years of age, according to the study.
Additionally, children with severe obesity at 2 years of age only have a 1 in 5 chance of not having a healthy weight at 35 years of age and those with the condition at age 5 only have a 1 in 10 chance, according to the study.
Overall, the authors projected that half of children aged between 2 and 19 years in 2016 will develop obesity by 25 years of age, with many not being overweight currently.
The authors also noted racial and ethnic disparities in obesity that are persistent at 2 years of age and last into adulthood. Specifically, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to develop obesity than whites between 2 and 35 years, according to the study.
These findings highlight the significance of implementing intervention services that encourage healthy eating and exercise very early in life, according to the authors.
“It is critically important to implement policies and programs to prevent excess weight gain, starting at an early age,” said senior author Steven Gortmaker, PhD. “Plenty of cost-effective strategies have been identified that promote healthy foods, beverages, and physical activity within school and community settings.”