Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
American kids and teens are watching slightly less television, and getting slightly more exercise, than they were 10 years ago, according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics. Unfortunately, the findings don’t also report a decline in childhood obesity rates, but they are an encouraging sign nonetheless. More from NBC News:
Using surveys conducted in middle and high schools, researchers also found increases in the number of days youth reported having breakfast each week and in how often they ate fruits and vegetables. Those trends have corresponded to a leveling off in obesity rates, but not a decline, the study showed.
“I would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an effect, because that seems to be a pattern,” Ronald Iannotti, the lead author on the study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, said.
“The fact that (obesity) is leveling off, that’s a surprise and a major change from the steady increase that we’ve seen,” Iannotti, who worked on the study while at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., said. “This is great news.”
He and co-author Jing Wang analyzed surveys given to a nationally representative sample of students in 6th through 10th grades in 2001-2002, 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 as part of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study. Each survey period included responses from between 9,000 and 15,000 adolescents.
The researchers found “encouraging” trends on measures of most diet and lifestyle habits.
For example, the number of days each week that kids reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes increased from 4.3 in 2001-2002 to 4.5 in 2009-2010, with similar trends among boys and girls. Likewise, youth reported eating breakfast on three school days each week on the first survey and 3.3 days on the last.
The average number of hours students spent watching TV each day fell from 3.1 to 2.4, with drops in both weekday and weekend viewing.
Frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption also rose slightly – although it remained at less than one daily serving of each, on average – and consumption of sweets and soft drinks fell.
However, the proportion of survey participants who were overweight or obese, based on their own height and weight reports, did not decrease, the researchers wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
Image: Kids playing outside, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
Childhood obesity rates are leveling off in America, but a new sub-category within the clinical definition of obesity is growing. Called “severely obese,” it affects an estimated 4 million American kids and teens–about 5 percent of children. More from NBC News:
That means nearly 4 million U.S. youth fall into a new category of obesity risk, one that carries dangers of serious disease and early death, even beyond expected harms, according to a scientific statement published Monday by the American Heart Association.
“It appears that severe obesity is the fastest-growing subcategory of obesity in youth,” write the authors in the report published in the journal Circulation.
Worse, when children get that big, it’s difficult to help them lose weight with traditional tools of diet and exercise, or even with drugs and surgery.
“Once this problem gets so severe, there’s no turning back, or there’s no turning back easily,” said Dr. Thomas Inge, a co-author of the paper and director of the Center for Bariatric Research and Innovation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “People don’t like to hear that and they don’t like to know that.”
Severely obese kids have higher rates of weight-related disease, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with complications such as high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Previous research has shown that obese kids as young as age 10 can have the arteries of middle-aged adults.
The new class encompasses kids ages 2 to 19 who have a body-mass index, or BMI, that’s 20 percent higher than the 95th percentile for their gender and age, or a BMI score of 35 or higher. A child or teen in the 95th percentile weighs more than 95 percent of others his or her age.
Image: Overweight pre-teen with salad, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Though certain lifestyle habits, including watching television and eating school lunches, are linked with childhood obesity, sixth grade girls and boys also face some gender-specific risk factors. Reuters reports:
Involvement in sports, for example, was tied to a lower risk of obesity in boys but not girls and drinking milk was linked to lowered risk among girls but not boys, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, write in the journal Pediatrics that understanding obesity risk factors for specific genders may help target programs aimed at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 17 percent of children and teens are obese.
For the new study, Jackson and her colleagues used data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 1,714 sixth-grade students at 20 middle schools in and around Ann Arbor.
Overall, about 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls were obese, which is defined as children who are in the top-fifth percentile of body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height.
Among boys who were not obese, about 56 percent participated in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, compared to about 43 percent of boys who were obese.
But there was no difference between the percentage of obese and non-obese girls who reported regular vigorous physical activity.
Playing on at least one sports team was also linked to decreased risk of obesity for boys but not girls.
The lack of an association between obesity and physical activity in girls may be explained by girls not reporting some activities like cheerleading or dance, because children may not consider those activities sports, the researchers write.
They did find, however, that drinking two or more servings of milk per day was tied to about a 20 percent decreased risk of obesity among girls but not boys. One possible explanation is that milk is displacing sugary drinks in the girls’ diets, Jackson’s team writes.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 9th, 2013
A decline–small, but significant, experts say–in the obesity rate among preschoolers growing up in low-income family is offering a glimmer of hope that efforts to combat the childhood obesity epidemic may be working. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released news of the decline in a recent report. USA Today has more:
Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the largest absolute decreases in prevalence of obesity, with a drop of at least 1 percentage point, the report says. Obesity rates held steady in 20 states and Puerto Rico. They rose in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Researchers analyzed weight and height data of about 11.6 million children ages 2 to 4 in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. The data came from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.
“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” Frieden says. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction.”
Previous research has shown that about one in eight preschoolers are obese in the USA, the CDC says. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than their normal-weight peers to be overweight or obese as adults.
“It’s great news, but it’s too early to say that I feel confident that we are securely on the path to improvement,” said James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to public health.
The results are surprising, he said, “because of the speed at which the epidemic appears to be turning around.” The report shows “the highest-risk children in almost half of the states are getting healthier.” Marks, a pediatrician, is the director of the health group of the Princeton, N.J.-based foundation.
Image: Healthy girl, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Children as young as five are at a heightened risk of being obese if they regularly drink sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, and sports drinks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Children who drink sweet drinks less often are less likely to be obese, according to the study. More from Reuters:
Although the link between sugary drinks and extra weight has been well documented among teens and adults, researchers said that up until now, the evidence was less clear for young children.
“Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, who led the study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
He and his colleagues surveyed the parents of a nationally-representative group of 9,600 children when the kids were two, four and five years old. The children were all born in 2001. Parents reported on their income and education, as well as how often children drank sugary beverages and watched TV.
The children and their mothers were weighed at each survey visit.
The proportion of kids who had at least one soda, sports drink or sugar-sweetened juice drink each day ranged from 9 to 13 percent, depending on their age.
Those children were more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of TV each day at age four and five.
After accounting for those influences as well as families’ socioeconomic status, the researchers found five-year-olds who had at least one sugary drink each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than those who drank the beverages less frequently or not at all.
Kids were considered obese if they had a body mass index – a measure of weight in relation to height – above the 95th percentile for their age and gender, as calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Child drinking sweet beverage, via Shutterstock
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