Obesity found to stem from an early age

by Shannon MacKay on February 20, 2014

by Shannon MacKay

Obesity is a major cause of health concerns in the US. Obesity is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and heart disease. A person is considered obese if his or her body mass index is 30 kg/m2 or higher. Currently, the amount of obese children is rapidly increasing. The rate of obesity in children has more than doubled in children over the last 30 years and now, approximately one out of every five children is either overweight or obese (CDC, 2013). Typically children are less likely to become obese than adults, however the rising occurrences of childhood obesity prove to be quite alarming. Additionally, overweight children are much more likely to become obese in adulthood than normal weight children (Benaroch, 2012).


Recently, a study was published discussing how age 11 is the “magic number” that a child will either stay obese or maintain a normal weight for the rest of his/her life. The study consisted of more then 7,000 children ages blank-blank. The research found that a third of these children were obese by eighth grade. What is interesting is that those who were found obese in 8th grade were all overweight in kindergarten. The remaining two thirds of the participants either remained overweight or lost excess weight to become normal weight. The huge commonality in this study, however, was that “by age 11 there were few additional changes: Those who were overweight stayed that way, and those whose weight was normal did not become fat” (Kolata, 2014). Although it is unknown why specifically age 11 seems to be the defining age or why this trend is true, researchers hypothesize that it may have to do with genetic predispositions and exposure to environments that encourage overeating. Family income, race and ethnicity affected the weight of younger children, however, the children who were overweight by the age of five were no longer affected by these factors. This study provides an explanation as to why efforts to help adolescents lose weight have not been completely successful, considering that lifelong obesity stems from a much younger age.

Studies prior to this study typically tracked obesity trends at each age, but this was the first one to continuously track changes in weight as children grew older. Therefore, this study “may reshape approaches to combating the nation’s obesity epidemic.” The publishing of this study suggests, “that efforts must start much earlier and focus more on the children at the greatest risk” (Kolata, 2014). In the future, efforts to reduce obesity that begin with elementary school aged children would most likely be more effective. Although body mass index and weight are related to genetic predispositions, genes are not the end all be all. There are many preventative health measures that can be taken to avoid being overweight or obese, such as healthy eating or regular physical activity. Both of these at home and at school can help overcome the effects of genes (CDC, 2013).

This study makes it seem as though the weight of a child determines his or weight as an adult. However, Steven L. Gortmaker, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, found a bright side to the study. He stated that the difference between being normal, overweight and obese may only be a few pounds in children, while in adults, it can be up to 50 pounds. In terms of fixing the nation’s obesity epidemic, it is much easier to help a child to lose a few pounds, than to help an adult with an unhealthy lifestyle lose 50 or more (Kolata, 2014). By starting healthy habits at a young age, children will be able to reverse their overweight predisposition and possibly eliminate it for their rest of their lives.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Colleen March 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

This is such a huge problem in the US nowadays! Thanks for getting the word out, Shannon! You rock! :)


Andrea March 4, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Great article! This is such a relevant issue today, and it’s so important that people understand this so that they can encourage healthy habits in children from an early age.


Olivia March 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm



Amanda H March 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Great article… very insightful


Arielle March 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm

The world really needs to care more about this issue and realize the consequences. Very informative!


Tara March 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Wow, what a fantastic article!!


Migs March 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

It is so important that this article mentions that it is not mainly a genetics issue, there is a huge impact from social-economic and lifestyle factors on both childhood and adulthood obesity. This was a great read!


Maddy March 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Well written and very informative, Shannon! As a future physical therapist, this is a huge concern for my profession. It is such an important topic for all people to understand and try to prevent. You go girl!


Nagging Nancy March 4, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Well i think its important to remember that there are a lot of people who lose weight after 11. theres def still hope for teens struggling out there don’t use this as an excuse to give up


Sammi March 5, 2014 at 12:22 am

So well written! Great article!


Maureen March 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Great job Shannon


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