Few Extra Pounds Put Kids at Risk for Adult Obesity

Youngsters with 'high-normal' weight 5 times more likely to be obese adults

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FRIDAY, March 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Just a few extra pounds can put children at greater risk of being overweight or obese and having high blood pressure when they're adults, researchers report.

Their study of 314 Boston children concluded that those who are in the upper half of the normal weight range between the ages of 8 and 15 are more likely than their lower weight peers to be obese or overweight as young adults.

"We have known that kids who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for being overweight or obese as adults. But in this paper, we show that even children in the high normal weight range have an elevated risk of becoming overweight or obese as adults," study lead author Alison Field, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, said in a prepared statement.

Reporting in the March issue of Obesity Research, Field's team measured each child's weight, height, and blood pressure when they were between 8 and 15 years old, and then once more eight to 12 years later.

Overall, nearly half (48.3 percent) of the males and a quarter (23.5 percent) of the females became overweight or obese between the first assessment and the follow-up.

Boys and girls assessed as having a body mass index (BMI) in the high-normal range during the initial assessment were five times more likely to be overweight as young adults, compared with children who had a below-average BMI for the group, the researchers say.

Heavier young girls and boys -- those with a BMI in the upper range -- were up to 20 times more likely to be overweight and four-to-five times as likely to have high blood pressure as young adults, they added.

"There has been widespread recognition in the past few years of how important it is to prevent obesity in children. These findings underscore that even children who are in the high normal weight range may have adverse outcomes later in life, and our challenge may be even greater than we thought," senior author Matthew Gillman, associate professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"We must focus not only on the most obese kids but also on those who are just a bit overweight," he said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children's weight.

SOURCE: Harvard Medical School, news release, March 10, 2005

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