Overweight Americans ages 2 to 19 have become heavier over the last decade, according to a newly published study. May Beydoun & Youfa Wang, “Sociodemographic disparities in distribution shifts over time in various adiposity measures among American children and adolescents: What changes in prevalence rates could not reveal,” International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, August 2010. Conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Institute on Aging, the study used population data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine changes in the body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and triceps skinfold thickness (TST) of boys and girls across socio-demographic groups.  

According to Wang, the data showed significant weight gains that were “unequally distributed” across the demographic groups and spectrums of BMI, WC and TST. “Heavier children and adolescents gained more adiposity, especially waist size, and these findings were most significant among children ages 6 to 11,” he said in a statement. “Ethnic disparities in mean BMI have also increased substantially when comparing black girls with their white counterparts for all ages combined.”  

Beydoun also noted that U.S. children and youth “may be at greater obesity-related risks than what was revealed by increases in BMI, as waist circumference is a better predictor of future health risks, such as for type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adults. More vigorous efforts should be made to understand the underlying causes. Moving forward, this could help guide future population-based interventions including those focusing on the total population and those targeting vulnerable or genetically susceptible groups.” See Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health Press Release, August 18, 2010.