Most US kids on track for obesity by 35, says study

Miami, Nov 30, 2017 — More than 57 per cent of children in the United States will be obese by age 35 if current trends in weight gain and poor eating habits continue, researchers warned yesterday.

The risk of obesity is high even among children whose present weight is normal, said the report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The annual medical costs of obesity in the United States are more than $147 billion per year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Adult obesity is linked with increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” said lead author Zachary Ward, an analyst at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“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.”

The study was based on a simulation model that predicted future trends based on height and weight data from five nationally representative studies of more than 41,000 children and adults.

“Obesity will be a significant problem for most children in the US as they grow older,” it said.

“Of the children predicted to have obesity as adults, half will develop it as children.”

Weight gain in a child’s early years is particularly hard to reverse in adulthood.

Researchers found that among obese toddlers aged two, three out of four will also be obese as adults.

Children with severe obesity — which affects 4.5 million children in the United States — face only a one in five chance of being normal weight adults.

Racial and ethnic disparities in weight are already apparent by age two, with black and Hispanics more likely to have obesity than whites — yet another trend that persists into adulthood.

“It is critically important to implement policies and programs to prevent excess weight gain, starting at an early age,” said senior author Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology at Harvard.

“Plenty of cost-effective strategies have been identified that promote healthy foods, beverages, and physical activity within school and community settings.”