If Current Trends Continue, Most of Today’s Youth Will Be Obese By Age 35

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Kovalam Beach - Obesity : a rising problem in India” by Miran Rijavec is licensed under CC BY 2.0Mr. Zachary Ward
Center for Health Decision Science
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, MA 02115

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although the current obesity epidemic in the US has been well documented in children and adults, less is known about the long-term risks of adult obesity for children given their current age and weight.  As part of the CHOICES project (Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study), we developed new methods to simulate height and weight trajectories across the life course based on individual-level data.  We also used a novel statistical approach to account for long-term population-level trends in weight gain, allowing us to make more realistic projections of obesity into the future. 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We find that if current trends continue, most of today?s youth (57%) will have obesity at the age of 35.  We also find that excess weight in childhood is predictive of adult obesity, even among young children.  For example, 3 out of 4 two-year-olds with obesity will still have obesity at age 35.  For children with severe obesity, the risk of adult obesity is even higher.  We also find that racial/ethnic disparities in obesity are already present by the age of 2 and persist into adulthood.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Obesity will be a significant problem for most children in the US as they grow older.  Children who already have obesity are at very high risk of adult obesity, which is linked with increased risks of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Thus it seems clear that children with obesity are prime candidates for early intervention.

We also find that about half of the projected obesity prevalence at age 35 occurs during childhood. Thus, our findings also highlight the importance of promoting a healthy weight throughout childhood and adulthood.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: In previous work, the CHOICES project has identified a number of cost-effective interventions that could be included in a broader strategy of prevention that will be critical to addressing this growing epidemic.  However, effective interventions will need to become much more widely used.  Further research is needed on how best to integrate interventions in different sectors (e.g. school, home, clinical) and sustain these efforts throughout childhood and beyond.

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Simulation of Growth Trajectories of Childhood Obesity into Adulthood
Zachary J. Ward, M.P.H., Michael W. Long, Sc.D., Stephen C. Resch, Ph.D., Catherine M. Giles, M.P.H., Angie L. Cradock, Sc.D., and Steven L. Gortmaker, Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2145-2153
November 30, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1703860

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Last Updated on November 30, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD