Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Overweight and obesity in children have increased dramatically since the 1960s with important clinical and economic impacts, especially among those who become obese adults. Consequently, understanding trends in obesity is of increasing importance for monitoring population health and informing policy initiatives. Current trends suggest that a majority of the world’s population will be either overweight or obese by 2030. However, recent reports suggest that the increasing trend in overweight and obesity in children may have leveled off since 2000. But, in many countries data are based on a limited number of time points and relatively small surveys, limiting definitive conclusions and not allowing examining trends in subgroups by sex and age. Moreover, only a few countries have data on younger children (aged under 6 years).
Our study aimed to use primary care electronic health records to examine prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2 to 15 year old children in England and to compare trends over two decades, from 1994 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2013.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that currently about a third of children in the UK are overweight or obese. We also found that overweight and obesity prevalence increased during decade 1 (1994-2003) but stabilized in decade 2 (2004-2013). This was observed in both sexes and the in younger age groups (2-5 year and 6-10 year). However, rates continued to increase in older children (11-15 year), albeit at a slower speed than in decade 1 (1994-2003).
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Our study shows that obesity levels may no longer be increasing but are stabilising in young children.
This is not a reason to be optimistic as more than a third of UK children are overweight or obese. This has a great impact on public health and obesity prevention and treatment remains a key public health priority. Increasing the recognition of obesity in primary care, and the effectiveness of interventions delivered through primary care services, represents one important component of the overall policy response.
For individual patients, National Recommendations are important and should be adhered to in all families to prevent children from becoming overweight or obese. These recommendations are:
- Be physically active for more than an hour a day.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables (5 portions a day).
- Drink water not fizzy drinks
- Eat less sugar, sweets, fried foods and salt
- For all the children who are currently overweight or obese, more efforts are needed by public health and clinical initiatives to help children reach a healthy weight. All initiatives should be evidence based, meaning that programmes have been tested scientifically and have shown to work.
- An important additional message for GP’s is to collect height and weight measures of their patient regularly. Our data suggest that routine growth monitoring of children may not always be captured into electronic records; and improved data recording will increase the utility of this data resource.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: It is important to continue to monitor obesity trends and test and implement evidence based strategies to lower obesity rates at the population level.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Cornelia HM van Jaarsveld and Prof Martin C Gullifor (2015). Childhood Obesity Levels Remain High But Stabilizing MedicalResearch.com