Children who are overweight are more likely to be that way when they grow up, new research suggests, and adolescence is the critical time to stop the trend in its tracks.
A child with a high body mass index (BMI) is more likely to be obese or overweight as an adult, says a study in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers used newly revised BMI-for-age charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate the probability that an overweight or obese child will be that way when they grow up.
The new charts that say a BMI of 25 or more (26 for men and 28 for women on the previous chart) is considered overweight for both males and females aged 2 to 20 years.
The study found the higher a child's or adolescent's BMI and the older the child, the more likely they would be an overweight or obese adult.
The study included 166 white males and 31 white females who were enrolled in the study soon after they were born. A comparison was done between their weight and stature when they were 3 to 20 years old and when they were 30 to 39 years old.
Young males with high BMI-for-age were more likely to be overweight adults than young females with high BMI-for-age.
Here's an example of what the researchers found: A 12-year-old girl with a BMI of more than 25 would be in the 95th percentile of BMI for her age, the researchers say, and would have an 80 percent probability of being an overweight adult.
That would increase to a 90 percent probability if she remained in the 95th percentile for BMI when she was 20.2 years old.
The researchers say the findings mean that adolescence is a critical period in terms of lifetime weight management.
They recommend this predictive approach be used to evaluate and monitor children and adolescents who are in the 85th or higher percentile of BMI for their age.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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