A new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that almost three in five United States children will be obese by the time they are 35 years old.
The study, led by Zachary Ward, used computer modelling and current national data to predict that 57% of children who are 2 to 19-years-old will be obese by the time they are 35.
If these numbers are correct, it means that the current rate of obesity in 35-year-olds (40%), will be nearly 20% higher by the time our children are 35.
Ward says that in children who have excess weight in childhood, a trajectory towards obesity remains, and says that children who suffer from obesity now would benefit greatly from intervention to prevent obesity in adulthood. Such interventions include reducing the amount of sugar-filled snacks and increasing physical education programs and physical activity in schools.
Of the studied data, Black and Hispanic children were more likely to be obese compared to White children, and the researchers were able to detect this even in children who were two-years-old.
Currently, rates of obesity have risen in older Americans, but obesity rates in children who are six-to-eleven years old have stabilized and even declined in children who were two-to-five years old, so this projection is concerning. Already, about six percent of U.S. children (about 4.6 million) are sufferers of severe obesity.
The study claims that children who are severely obese are most susceptible for adult obesity risk. In fact, their chances of not being obese when they are 35-years-old are only 21% for 2-year-olds and six percent for 19-year-olds.
The data contained height and weights from a national sample of 41,567 children and adults. Ward says that the results are surprising simply because they expose the great magnitude of this problem. He says even though trends in weight gain and obesity have been increasing in the last 40 years, in some parts of the country he believes we are already at those levels of obesity and this could be a ‘new normal.’
The study also found that children who were not obese had lower risks of being obese at 35, and their odds went down as they aged. Ward says that children with current healthy weights have a less than 50% chance of being obese as 35-year-olds.
The authors said that solutions could come from what a 2015 study concluded as cost-effective, including a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools and eliminating a tax subsidy food companies get when they advertise unhealthy foods for children.