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Rise in obesity among children in England may be slowing

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b4568 (Published 04 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4568
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

    The rate of increase in the number of children who are obese or overweight may be starting to slow, shows a new analysis of the latest data.

    In 2007 researchers predicted that by 2020 the proportion of boys aged 2 to 11 years who would be obese or overweight would be 42%. This figure has now been revised down to 30% by the National Heart Forum.

    The proportion of girls aged 2 to 11 who are expected to be overweight or obese by 2020 has fallen from 48% to 27% in the new analysis.

    The updated forecasts are based on data collected for the Health Survey for England between 2000 and 2007. Previous estimates were based on data collected for the same survey between 1993 and 2004.

    Analysis of the same data also show a lower rate of overweight and obesity in young people aged between 12 and 19. Among boys 24% are expected to be overweight or obese by 2020, down from the previous estimate of 44%. The proportion of girls in this age group predicted to be an unhealthy weight has fallen from 65% to 38%.

    The authors of the report conclude that latest data set (2000-7) “shows a significantly healthier picture than the data up to 2004,” with an overall positive picture for all age groups and both sexes. They note, however, that older girls seem to be doing less well than boys and younger girls.

    They could not offer an explanation for the changes, although they say that government strategies to tackle child obesity—together with greater awareness among parents of the dangers of obesity—may be having an effect.

    The authors add, “Whilst these trends present a positive picture they should not be taken as an argument for complacency as prevalence of excess weight is still unacceptably high.”

    They caution too that the data have limitations and that it will be important to continue to monitor children’s weight closely.

    Future reports will look at obesity trends in adults and future disease and economic burdens associated with obesity.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4568

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