Like other markers of obesity — such as weight and body mass index (BMI) — there's a trend of increasing waist size among American children and teens, researchers affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say.
Using data from a national nutrition study conducted during four time periods — 1988 to 1994, 1999 to 2000, 2001 to 2002, and 2003 to 2004 — researchers tracked waist circumference and the ratio of waist size to height for kids and teens in four different age groups. Taking these measurements is especially valuable for measuring abdominal obesity, the presence of which increases a person's risk for diabetes-related complications and cardiovascular disease.
The results? Abdominal obesity increased in both boys and girls and in all age groups between 1988–1994 and 1999–2004. The largest increases in average waist size occurred in 18- to 19-year-old girls and boys. Here's how the changes in waist size broke down:
- Ages 2–5: Increased from 20 in (50.7 cm) to 20.4 in (51.9 cm)
- Ages 6–11: Increased from 24.4 in (61.9 cm) to 25.4 in (64.5 cm)
- Ages 12–17: Increased from 30.2 in (76.8 cm) to 31.4 in (79.8 cm)
- Ages 18–19: Increased from 32 in (81.3) to 34.1 in (86.6 cm)
- Ages 2–5: Increased from 20.1 in (51 cm) to 20.4 in (51.8 cm)
- Ages 6–11: Increased from 24.3 in (61.7 cm) to 25.5 in (64.7 cm)
- Ages 12–17: Increased from 29.5 in (75 cm) to 30.1 in (78.9 cm)
- Ages 18–19: Increased from 30.6 in (77.7 cm) to 33 in (83.9 cm)
What This Means to You
The results of this study show that abdominal obesity, in particular, has increased dramatically in U.S. kids and teens, especially in older teens. For kids and teens who are overweight, getting more physical activity and eating more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins may help reduce excess weight gain. If you have concerns about your child's nutrition or weight, talk to your doctor for advice and guidance.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2006
Source: Chaoyang Li, MD, PhD; Earl S. Ford, MD, MPH; Ali H. Mokdad, PhD; Stephen Cook, MD; Pediatrics, November 2006.