The alarming increase in childhood obesity rates that began in the US nearly 30 years ago continues unabated, with the biggest increases in severe obesity, a new study has warned.
“Despite some other recent reports, we found no indication of a decline in obesity prevalence in the US in any group of children aged 2 through 19,” said Asheley Skinner from Duke University in the US.
“This is particularly true with severe obesity, which remains high, especially among adolescents,” said Skinner.
Researchers found that for 2013-2014, 33.4 per cent of children between the ages of 2 through 19 were overweight.
Among those, 17.4 per cent had obesity, which includes a range from the lower end of the designation criteria to the higher end.
These rates were not statistically different than those from the previous reporting period of 2011-2012. Across all categories of obesity, a clear, statistically significant increase continued from 1999 through 2014, researchers said.
“Most disheartening is the increase in severe obesity,” said Skinner.
The prevalence of severe obesity – correlated to an adult Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher – accounted for the sharpest rise from the previous reporting period, researchers said.
Among all overweight youngsters in the 2012-14 reporting period, 6.3 per cent had a BMI of at least 35, which was defined as class II obesity, they said.
Another 2.4 per cent of those had severe obesity, defined as class III, which was consistent with an adult BMI of 40 or more, researchers said.
For the previous reporting period, 5.9 per cent of youngsters had class II obesity, and 2.1 per cent of those were at class III levels, they said.
“An estimated 4.5 million children and adolescents have severe obesity and they will require new and intensive efforts to steer them towards a healthier course,” said Skinner.
“Studies have repeatedly shown that obesity in childhood is associated with worse health and shortened lifespans as adults,” she added.
The findings were published in the journal Obesity.