Long-Term Risks of Adulthood Obesity Based on Childhood Diagnosis

HealthDay News — More than half of today’s children are expected to be obese at the age of 35 years, with about half of the prevalence occurring during childhood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Zachary J. Ward, MPH, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues estimated the risk of adult obesity at age 35 years for the current population of children in the United States. Height and weight data were pooled from 5 nationally representative longitudinal studies with 176,720 observations from 41,567 children and adults.

The researchers found that the models predicted that 57.3% of today’s children will be obese at the age of 35 years, given the current level of childhood obesity; about half of the projected prevalence will occur during childhood.

The relative risk of adult obesity increased with age and body mass index, from 1.17 for overweight 2-year-olds to 3.10 for severely obese 19-year-olds. The chance that children with severe obesity will no longer be obese at the age of 35 years decreased from 21% at the age of 2 years to 6.1% at the age of 19 years.

“On the basis of our simulation models, childhood obesity and overweight will continue to be a major health problem in the United States,” the authors write.

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Ward ZJ, Long MW, Resch SC, Giles CM, Cradock AL, Gortmaker SL. Simulation of growth trajectories of childhood obesity into adulthood. N Engl J Med. 2017;377:2145-2153. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1703860