Obesity rates for adults and children in the U.S. seem to be leveling off, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease and Prevention released online last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. According to some other studies those statistics aren't unique to Americans. A new paper finds obesity rates may also be leveling off among Greek children.
The study, done by Greek researchers, looked at trends in body mass index among 651,582 children age 8 to 9 in more than 80% of Greek schools from 1997 through 2007, according to data taken from 11 national school-based health surveys.
From 1997 to 2004, obesity rates for boys went from 8.1% to 12.3%, and for girls rates went from 7.2% to 11.3%. However, rates for boys and girls leveled off from 2004 to 2007 and were higher for boys than for girls. Rates of overweight girls and boys have continued to climb from 1997 to 2007, going from 19.6% to 26.5% for boys and from 20.2% to 26.7% for girls.
The researchers say in the study that although the news is encouraging, they will need to track the trends for a few more years to see if the obesity rates stay stable. They offer a few theories why numbers may have leveled off: There is a natural ceiling for obesity; BMI categories might need to be re-evaluated to be current with updated metabolic and anthropometric data; or that efforts toward preventing and treating obesity are working.
But Greece's children are not out of the woods yet. In the study, the authors write, "Serious and urgent actions need to be taken from public health policy makers affecting both social and market environments in order not only to prevent a further increase in overweight and obesity rates, but, more importantly, to treat obesity and/or the obesity-associated comorbidities."
The study appears in the January issue of the journal Obesity.
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo credit: Kay Neitfeld / EPA