Prevalence of overweight increasing in young children from low-income families

December 06, 2004

CHICAGO - The prevalence of overweight increased from 1989 to 2000 in children aged two to four years from low-income families, according to an article in the December issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, children who are overweight are at risk for diabetes, gall stones, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure. As adults, they are also at an increased risk for coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), compared with those not overweight as adolescents.

Bettylou Sherry, Ph.D., R.D., from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, Atlanta, and colleagues examined the change in the prevalence of overweight and underweight in children ages two to four years from low income families participating in federally funded programs. The researchers used state-specific data for participants in the PedNSS program in 1989, 1994, and 2000. They defined overweight as a body mass index (BMI) for age in the 95th percentile or higher, and underweight as BMI for age in less than the fifth percentile, following CDC growth charts.

The overall trend in the study showed an increased prevalence of overweight in all sex, age, and race/ethnicity groups between 1989 and 2000. Of the 30 states included in the study, 28 had an overweight prevalence of more than 10 percent, compared to 11 states in 1989. Also in 2000, three states had overweight prevalences of more than 15 to 20 percent, while two had prevalences of more than twenty percent. During the study period, underweight decreased, with nine states in 1989 and 23 states in 2000 reporting a prevalence of five percent or less. The researchers did not find a geographic concentration in overweight prevalence.

"In addition, national data representative of the U.S. population also showed increases in overweight prevalence over time, indicating that overweight is a national problem, not a problem exclusively associated with publicly funded programs or low income," write the researchers.

"Overweight is increasing and underweight is decreasing in our study population. We need to expand prevention and intervention efforts to reverse the rising trend of overweight in the United States," the authors write.
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(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004; 158:1116-1124. Available post-embargo at archpediatrics.com)

To contact Bettylou Sherry, Ph.D., R.D., call Tim Hensley at 770-488-5820.

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org.

The JAMA Network Journals

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