October 2, 1995
Web posted at: 4:50 p.m. EDT
From Reporter Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Kids in the United States are getting heavier, according to a nationwide survey reported in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The survey shows the number of overweight children aged 6 to 17 has more than doubled, primarily in the past decade, climbing from 5 percent in the 1960s to 11 percent in the 1990s.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured children's height and weight, and determined that almost 5 million are too heavy. A 14-year-old girl, for example, was considered overweight if she was 5-foot-3 and weighed at least 151 pounds.
Researchers say the rise in overweight children mirrors the trend among adults, and indicates it is likely to continue. Richard Troiano, a member of the research group that released the report, said past experience has shown that when children and adolescents are overweight, "at least some of them are likely to remain overweight as adults, and we know that overweight adults have increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases."
The CDC research group defines obesity in children much more conservatively than obesity in adults. When the more liberal adult definition was used in analyzing the data, the number of heavy children rose from 15 percent to 23 percent. That would mean almost one-fourth of American children are too heavy, compared with one-third of American adults. The survey showed the biggest jump in weight was among African- American girls.
The CDC believes the best way to reverse the trend, particularly for children, is to get them to be more physically active. "Dieting doesn't work in general for adults, and it's not a good idea even more so for children because you might interfere with growth," Troiano said. "It's perfectly safe to recommend people increase their physical activity, however."
Health experts say the children's survey adds even more weight to the notion that the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of obesity.
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