More than half of today’s American children will be obese at age 35, the Harvard study projects



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A new Harvard T.H. The study projects of the Chan School of Public Health project that if current trends continue, more than 57 percent of today's youth will be obese at the age of 35.

Currently, about one in five schoolchildren is considered obese.

Some recent findings have been encouraging: Obesity rates decreased a little in children under 5 and stabilized between 6 and 11 years.

But obesity has continued to increase in adolescents and adults. Put the weight gain early together with the subsequent weight gain, and the future looks heavy – surprisingly heavy – for today's children, the study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds. He used new simulation models to predict long-term weight gain.

I spoke with the lead author of the article, Zachary Ward, a Ph.D. candidate in health policy at Harvard. Our conversation, slightly edited:

How would you summarize what you found in this document?

We discovered that obesity is going to be a big problem for most children today if current trends continue. We discovered that more than half of today's children, around 57 percent, are obese when they turn 35. And we discovered that obesity or excess weight during childhood is a predictive factor of adult obesity, even at a very young age.

Do we already know?

Yes, we did. But we did not have good data to really predict long-term; the average follow-up study in the US UU It is less than 10 years old.

How did you get to your findings?

We collect five sets of representative data at the national level that have repeated measurements of the same people over time. These are people of different ages, some are children, others are adults, and we develop a new method to simulate synthetic trajectories over a longer period of time by sequentially joining segments of observed trajectories.

We also had to adjust to trends in weight gain over time. We use those estimates to adjust our simulated trajectories so that we can make more accurate predictions for today's children in the future.

I think my reaction will be common: I thought things were improving! I thought we had stabilized childhood obesity and yet you found an image that seems pretty serious.

We may have stabilized obesity in some age groups, although some recent data show that it continues to increase among young children, but even if we also ran a scenario in which we badume that these trends in weight gain do not continue , they remain stable; We still find that about 50 percent of children in that scenario will become obese at the age of 35. Therefore, it seems that children have already gained enough weight during childhood to put them on a trajectory that is difficult to change as that grow older.

And that trajectory will almost always be heavier as you get older?

Correct. People generally gain more weight as they get older. And we discovered that about half of the projected level of obesity occurs during childhood, at the age of 20, and then the other half of this 57 percent occurs in young adulthood, between the ages of 20 to 35. [19659017] Is this study first? ?

This is the first time that we have used new methods to make better predictions based on the data we have. It is not the first in terms of some of the ideas. We have known that excess weight in childhood is predictive of adult obesity. But this study can make more accurate predictions for the current generation of children, to really characterize their risks more accurately.

So, what should be done?

This study is part of a larger project called the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study. We have modeled more than 40 different interventions in different sectors: community interventions, school interventions, clinical interventions. And we have identified a series of cost-effective preventive interventions, but they will need a broader implementation if we are going to make a dent in this epidemic.

Reports that I have seen suggest that several interventions just a little rule out the problem: a couple of percentage points here and there, at least in the early years …

Correct. I think we're really going to need to think carefully about how we can package interventions in different sectors and really sustain efforts throughout life as children get older.

Because the great damage to health tends to appear later, at 35 and older?

Correct, there are some health effects for children with severe obesity, but most of the health risks for them begin to occur later in life.

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