Obese kids likely to stay obese in high school

Nov. 14, 2014—Want to know if your children will have weight problems in high school? Their weight in 5th grade could offer a good clue, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers found that kids who were overweight or obese in 5th grade tended to be overweight or obese in 10th grade as well.

About the study

Researchers measured the body mass indexes (BMIs) of nearly 4,000 children when they were in 5th grade and again in 10th grade. They also measured the BMI of one parent per child at the same time. They found that:

  • 65 percent of obese 5th-graders remained obese in 10th grade.
  • Among all 5th-graders, those who were overweight were the most likely to become obese in high school. And 14 percent of overweight 5th-graders became obese by 10th grade.
  • 87 percent of children who were at a normal weight in 5th grade remained at a normal weight in 10th grade.

Researchers also interviewed children and their parents to determine factors that could potentially play a role in obesity. They found that 5th graders who were overweight were more likely to become obese if they watched too much television or had an obese parent.

Researchers noted that these findings reinforce the idea that childhood obesity should be addressed early, since younger children tend to be more receptive to healthy interventions than older ones.

To learn more, read the study at the journal’s website.

The take-home message
Childhood obesity is the top health concern among U.S. parents, and for good reason. The American Heart Association says overweight kids have an 80 percent chance of staying overweight for their entire lives, putting them at risk for negative long-term health problems like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a BMI calculator specifically designed to measure the BMIs of children ages 2 through 19. If your child is overweight or obese, there are several ways you can help him or her achieve a healthier weight:

  • Control portions. Teach your child to focus on fullness rather than encouraging a clean plate.
  • Get moving. Encourage fun family activities like hiking or bicycling.
  • Limit screen time to 2 hours per day. Keep TVs and computers out of your child’s bedroom, and discourage snacking while watching TV.
  • Emphasize sleep. Research has found a connection between poor sleep habits and obesity. Children and teens need at least 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Serve nutritious foods. Make healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy everyday staples. Save fried foods, sugary snacks, or soft drinks for occasional treats. Having meals together as a family can also help children maintain a healthy weight.


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