By Kerry Sheridan, AFP
WASHINGTON–Contrary to recent reports, America’s children are still struggling with obesity and there has been no decline in the epidemic among young people, U.S. researchers said Monday. In fact, the problem is getting worse in a small subset of the heaviest children, among whom the trend has about doubled, said the findings in JAMA Pediatrics, a journal of the American Medical Association. The new study examined records from at 26,690 children, aged between two and 19, who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2012. Just over 17 percent were obese in 2011-2012, meaning their body mass index (BMI) was greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for their age and sex. That was slightly higher than the figure in 1999-2000, when 14.5 were obese, but the margin of error could make the difference as small as one percent. When researchers looked more closely at severe obesity, they found this trend was becoming more common, and had about doubled from 1999 to 2012. Severe obesity was defined as having a BMI that was 20 to 40 percent higher than the 95th percentile of their peers. In other words, a 10-year old boy weighing 95 pounds (43 kilograms) at a height of 4.5 feet (1.37 meters) would be considered obese.
If he added 10 pounds (4.5 kg) to his already obese frame, he would reach Class 2 obesity. If he added 25 pounds (11 kg), he would be considered Class 3. Nearly six percent of youths now meet the definition for Class 2 obesity, and about two percent are Class 3, said the study.