Obesity Rates Higher Among U.S. Teens Than Those in 14 Other Nations, Study Finds
U.S. teens have higher rates of being obese and overweight than teens from 14 other industrialized countries, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, USA Today reports. The study, led by Inge Lissau, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Public Health in Copenhagen, Denmark, analyzed self-reported height and weight records from 29,000 children ages 13 and 15 from 15 nations in 1997 and 1998 (Hellmich, USA Today, 1/6). They found that among American 15-year-olds, 15% of girls and 14% of boys were obese, and 31% of girls and 28% of boys were overweight. Study co-author Mary Overpeck of the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau attributed the U.S. weight problems to the fact that U.S. teens are more likely than those in other countries to consume fast food, snacks and sugary sodas, and they are also more likely to be driven to school and other activities rather than walking. Other countries with high obese and overweight rates included Greece, Portugal, Israel, Ireland and Denmark. Lithuania had the lowest rate of overweight and obese teens; among 15-year-olds, 2% of girls and 0.8% of boys were obese, and 8% of girls and 5% of boys were overweight. Overpeck said the low obese and overweight percentages in Lithuania are likely attributable to a paucity of fast-food restaurants and the fact that teens have less money for snacks and fast food. She added that recent surveys show that there has been little change in obese and overweight rates among the countries studied.
Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity researcher at Children's Hospital Boston who was not involved in the study, said that although the rest of the world "may be catching up ... we're still in first place in a race that unfortunately we shouldn't want to be winning" (AP/Dallas Morning News, 1/5). The authors concluded, "Since most obese adolescents remain obese as adults, this age group is a very important group to reach through preventive programs and addressing issues of diet and sedentary lifestyles" (NIH release, 1/5). An abstract of the report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.