More than half of current school-age U.S. children are projected to be obese over the course of the next three decades, according to a new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Lead author Zachary Ward, a Ph.D. candidate at the school, says that children and young adults ages 2 to 20 are on a track toward massive weight gains by age 35.
“It seems that children have already gained enough weight during childhood to put them on a trajectory that’s hard to change as they grow older,” Ward told NPR station WBUR.
The research team developed a simulation model to estimate the risk of adult obesity at age 35 for young children. They combined body-mass indices from five longitudinal studies that followed more than 41,000 adults and children over time. The researchers applied those trajectories to virtual populations of current school-age children, tracking them from now to age 35.
The projections don’t just imply that currently obese children will remain obese, but predicts that many healthy weight children could become obese after age 20.
“We found that about half of the projected level of obesity occurs during childhood — by the age of 20 — and then the other half of this 57% occurs in young adulthood, ages 20 to 35,” Ward said.
Send your kids outside ASAP! Projections say that more than half of current children will be obese by the time they turn 35 years old.
Recent studies have painted different pictures about changes in current childhood obesity rates. A June 2016 study said that there has been a significant decline in obesity in children aged 2 to 5, while obesity in children 6 to 11 has stabilized. But a global study earlier this year noted that obesity in children has more increased over tenfold in the last 40 years.
Ward says the research is part of a project called the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES), which seeks to find cost-effective methods to stop childhood obesity by using research similar to Ward’s, analyzing policies and estimating cost-effectiveness estimates for prevention programs.
Some of these estimates say that many intervention programs right now only marginally reduce the problem of childhood obesity. Ward said that many of the programs need to be more widely implemented in order to “make a dent in this epidemic.”