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Prevalence of obesity rises among Black, Hispanic teens

January 1, 2021

The percent of Black and Hispanic teens with obesity increased significantly over the past decade, but the prevalence of obesity remained unchanged for non-Hispanic White adolescents and for young children, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Researchers analyzed NHANES data from 1999 through 2018 to look at trends in obesity prevalence by race and age. Participants underwent a physical exam, which included measurements of weight, length and height.

Results for children from birth to 24 months showed no significant trends in high weight for length. In 1999-2002, 8.5% of children had a weight for length at or above the 97.7th percentile of the World Health Organization growth standards compared to 9.2% in 2015-’18.

Similarly, no significant trends were seen in obesity among children 2 through 5 years old. About 10% of children in 1999-2002 had a body mass index (BMI) for age at or above the 95th percentile on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts compared to 13.7% in 2015-’18.

For children ages 6-11 years, obesity increased significantly from 15.8% in 1999-2002 to 19.3% in 2015-’18, but there were no significant trends by race.

Obesity also increased significantly among 12- to 19-year-olds from 16% to 20.9%. Severe obesity — defined as BMI for age 120% of the 95th percentile or higher — increased significantly from 5.3% to 7.6%.

Significant increases in obesity and severe obesity were seen among Mexican American adolescents. Obesity increased from 22.3% to 30.6%, and severe obesity increased from 7.6% to 12.9%.

Obesity among non-Hispanic Black teens increased significantly from 21.1% to 28.2%, but the increase in severe obesity of 8.6% to 13% was not significant.

Meanwhile, no significant increases were seen in the prevalence of obesity or severe obesity among non-Hispanic White teens (13.7% to 15.9% and 4.1% to 4.9%, respectively).


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