BOSTON — The proportion of American children who are overweight has increased more than 50% over two decades, and the nation is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity, the authors of a new study say.
"I think it's something to be concerned about," said Steven L. Gortmaker, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who conducted a new study on obesity with Dr. William H. Dietz Jr. of the New England Medical Center.
"Childhood obesity is epidemic in the United States," Dietz said. "The implications are that there is going to be a major rise in the prevalence of adult obesity and its consequences."
The study is being published in the May issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children.
An analysis of data from four surveys by the National Center for Health Statistics involving 21,605 children between 1963 and 1980 found the prevalence of obesity among children ages 6 to 11 increased 54%, from 17.6% to 27.1%, Gortmaker said.
For adolescents ages 12 to 17, the percentage of those considered obese went from 15.8% to 21.9%, an increase of 39%.
Various Health Concerns
The increases cause concern because obese children tend to grow up to be obese adults, and obesity is related to a variety of health concerns, including high blood pressure, respiratory problems and diabetes, Gortmaker said.
The researchers defined obesity based on a standard established in the 1960s that measures the thickness of skin on the triceps of the upper arm.