More Than Half of American Kids May Be Obese by 35

Most people who have been to our office in the past few years have seen the Happy Meal on our shelf.  This Happy Meal was made in March 2010, yet when you look at it today it looks as good as new.  There is no mold on it, bugs won’t eat it, and it hasn’t broken down one bit in its near 8-year life.  The fact of the matter is that it is not real food, but that is a discussion for a different day.  Today I want to focus on the Happy Meal’s target consumers – children. 

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently used data from the CDC and five long-term projection studies to predict the future health of today’s American children.  The study accounted for 41,567 children and adults to map out height and weight trajectories for a population of 1 million aging kids.  1,000 different simulations were run to reach a prediction for the future health of this population.

Their projections were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. These researchers estimate that 57% of children who are currently between 2 and 19 years old will be obese by age 35 if current diet and health trends continue.  Currently, about 38% of American adults age 20 and over are obese, a number which has been steadily climbing since the 1970s.  It was determined that while childhood obesity is a definitive risk factor for adult obesity, a high number of normal-weight children are still at risk for developing obesity later in life, according to the projections. 

The study’s lead author, Ph.D. candidate Zach Ward, sheds light on the researchers’ projections:

“On current trends, obesity is going to be a problem for most kids as they grow older. We really need to start thinking about really scaling up prevention efforts.  Just because a child is at a healthy weight, that’s certainly a good thing, but we need to ensure that they maintain a healthy weight as they grow older.  It also points to the importance of early interventions, such as school nutrition programs, reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and limiting screen time for children who already have obesity”

Obesity in and of itself is an issue, but in my opinion, the greater concern is the health issues that are linked to obesity.  These include some of the most common killers in America, and most commonly are chronic issues that will affect peoples’ lives for many years.  The most common obesity-linked chronic diseases in this country are diabetes, cancer, and the most common cause of death in America – heart disease. 

Like Mr. Ward said, preventative efforts must be made to prevent this issue.  I think the biggest thing we can do is educate kids on healthy choices.  They are constantly being bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy but tasty foods, such as the Happy Meal.  With proper education, we can prevent the obesity trend from reaching the current projections. 

Yours in Health, Dr. Alex

Project Wellness Company, Madison WI