Children are piling on the pounds while still in grade school, with 6 percent qualifying as extremely obese, according to an extensive new survey of kids in California.
"We were surprised to find an alarmingly high number of extremely obese children: 7 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls," says Corinna Koebnick, a nutritionist and research scientist for Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif., who led the study. "That's scary." A 10-year-old boy is supposed to weigh 70 pounds, and an extremely obese 10-year-old weighs 114 pounds. That's not merely a cosmetic issue. There's growing evidence that being obese in childhood raises the risk of a host of serious health problems in adulthood, including heart disease and diabetes. "These children will likely continue to be extremely obese adults," says Koebnick.
Not only are kids getting very fat, but the pounds are adding up at a young age, with boys' weight peaking at age 10 and girls' weight spiking at age 12 and again at age 18. An extremely obese 16-year-old weighs 200 pounds, compared with a normal 120 pounds. Overall, 37 percent of the children studied were overweight, 19 percent were obese, and 6 percent were extremely obese. This study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics, didn't examine why kids are getting so fat; it surveyed the records of 710,949 children ages 2 to 19 who visited the doctor at Kaiser Permanente in 2007 and 2008.
I recently wrote about how parents can keep children from snacking their way to obesity, as well as how to find obesity treatments that work for your child. And if you'd like advice from a famous D.C. mom, check out how Michelle Obama got her daughters to lose weight.