A child sits on the gym floor during the Shapedown program for overweight adolescents in Aurora, Colorado.
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Childhood obesity rooted in early years, new study finds

Updated

Children who are overweight at a young age are more likely to become obese when they are older, a new study found.

Overweight five-year-olds were four times as likely as normal-weight children to become obese, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Body-mass index measures childhood obesity and overweight, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Out of the 7,738 elementary-school children observed in the study, 12.4% of them were obese in kindergarten and almost 15% were overweight. By eighth grade, nearly 21% were obese and 17% were overweight. Authors of the study tracked children’s weight between kindergarten and eighth grade.

Among children who were obese between the ages of 5 and 14, about half had been overweight in their younger years. Researchers measured the children’s height and weight seven times between that time period.

Obesity, which affects 17% of all American children and adolescents, is triple the rate now than from one generation ago, according to the CDC.

Social services - including expanding early-childhood education, building communities that promote healthy living, and shifting the focus of health care from treatment to prevention - can accomplish more in reducing obesity than medicine alone, according to experts in a study published last week.

First lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move campaign in 2010 to help combat childhood obesity. The nationwide initiative is also committed to helping ensure all families have access to healthy, affordable food in their communities.

Adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 spend about 7.5 hours a day watching television and movies, using computers and cell phones, and playing video games, according to Let’s Move statistics.

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Childhood obesity rooted in early years, new study finds

Updated