Checking in on US Kids' Midsections

Abdominal obesity has decreased for youngest US children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Obesity among American children has been the focus of public health officials for some time — and there is some evidence of success.

A recent study found that abdominal fat has decreased among children aged 2 to 5 over the past decade.

Meanwhile, measures of abdominal obesity have remained steady in other children and teens since 2003.

The authors of the study noted that increased efforts at improving children's nutrition and physical activity levels remain necessary.

"Ask your pediatrician about healthy nutrition."

The study, led by Bo Xi, MD, of the Departments of Epidemiology and Health Statistics of Shandong University in China, looked at changes in the amount of abdominal fat in US kids since 2004.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) conducted in five times from 2003 through 2012.

These surveys included information collected from 16,601 total US children, aged 2 to 18.

The researchers specifically calculated how many children had abdominal obesity.

Abdominal obesity was defined as having a waist circumference exceeding the 90th percentile for children's age and sex and/or having a waist-to-height ratio of at least 0.5.

The researchers found that 18 percent of children and teens in 2011-2012 had abdominal obesity based on their waist circumference.

Yet about a third (33 percent) of those aged 6 to 18 had abdominal obesity in 2011-2012 based on their waist-to-height ratio.

Overall, however, the average waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio of children and teens between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012 has remained relatively constant.

This finding has remained true across age, sex and races/ethnicities with one exception: abdominal obesity among children aged 2 to 5 has begun to decrease.

"However," the researchers wrote, "the prevalence of abdominal obesity is high; therefore, appropriate dietary intake and physical activity should be further emphasized to combat the obesity epidemics."

In an interview with dailyRx News, Rusty Gregory, a wellness coach, personal fitness trainer and author of "Self-Care Reform: How to Discover Your Own Path to Good Health" and "Living Wheat-Free For Dummies," offered some advice on trimming abdominal fat.

"The elimination of abdominal obesity begins and ends with a nutrient-dense diet. This includes removing all foods that cause an insulin spike, such as easily digestible carbohydrates. Foods that are packed with nutrition and that provide satiation should be the bulk of a person's diet," Gregory said.

"Exercise should be a part of any healthy lifestyle program," he said.

"However, are you familiar with the saying, 'go work up an appetite?' This suggests that exercise/physical activity will increase one's appetite by creating an energy imbalance. What most people don't realize is that the body seeks balance. If you're not eating a healthy diet, the calories you are eating (plus additional calories from your increased appetite) may very well be stored as fat," Gregory explained.

"Exercises such as push-ups, abdominal crunches, and squat thrusts are all great ways to make your body more efficient and stronger. Also, any activities that include running and jumping such as tag (or any one of it's many variations), physical active video games, or fun and creative obstacle courses are a great way to improve your cardio-respiratory system and enhance your overall health," he said.

The study was published July 21 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Scientific Research Organization Construction Project of Shandong University. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 21, 2014
Last Updated:
July 22, 2014