Obese Children Were Likely to Stay Obese

Obesity in adolescence may be influenced by factors like having an obese parent or watching too much TV

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Children who are overweight as adolescents have options to change the size of their waistline. But changing means overcoming several life style challenges.

A newly released study found that most obese 10th graders were overweight as fifth graders. These fifth graders were more likely to become obese if they had an overweight parent or watched too much television.

Does this mean increasing the frequency of exercise, eating a healthy diet and turning off the TV will reduce the obesity epidemic?

“Understanding factors associated with the transition into and out of obesity would inform efforts to address the obesity epidemic,” the study authors, led by Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, of Boston Children's Hospital, explained.

The researchers studied 3,961 public school children when they were in the fifth grade and again when they were in 10th grade. They collected data on the height and weight of the children and one parent per child. The students answered questions about their body image, exercise, TV habits and diet.

Dr. Schuster and team found that 19 percent of the fifth graders and 18 percent of the 10th graders were overweight. Twenty-six percent of fifth graders and 20 percent of 10th graders were obese. The researchers defined overweight children as those who were heavier than 85 percent of the other children. The children who were heavier than 95 percent of the children were considered obese.

"It is frequently stated that most of our habits are formed between ages 11-21 years old. The studies show, however, that in 5th grade which is typically around 11 years old, many children already have poor eating habits as well as poor self image," Boston pediatrician Thomas Seman, MD, told dailyRx News.

"Obviously we need to start earlier in identifying these children and educate and support them in making better decisions. Further educating parents is also very important since we know the power of their influence on their children)," Dr. Seman said.

Sixty-five percent of obese fifth graders were still obese as 10th graders, and 83 percent of obese 10th graders had been obese as fifth graders.

Some of the obese fifth graders — 23 percent — were considered overweight in 10th grade.

Overweight fifth graders who watched 30 hours of TV and had an obese parent had a 21 percent chance of becoming obese in 10th grade.

"Children who are not yet obese by fifth grade but who have an obese parent or who watch considerable television might benefit from monitoring, as might children who have negative body images," the study authors wrote.

"Studies have shown that children learn better and have better focus if they have regular exercise in gym as well as recess. Should these be reintroduced every day for children, this would give them a chance to exercise, interact with other children and should decrease overall weight in a child and decrease the percentage of overweight and obese children." Dr. Seman said.

The children in the study came from city schools only and may not have been representative of the general population, the study authors noted.

The study was published online Nov. 10 in Pediatrics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study. The authors did not declare any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 7, 2014
Last Updated:
November 18, 2014