OBJECTIVES:

To provide updated prevalence data on obesity trends among US children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years from a nationally representative sample.

METHODS:

We used the NHANES for years 1999 to 2016. Weight status was determined by using measured height and weight from the physical examination component of the NHANES to calculate age- and sex-specific BMI. We report the prevalence estimates of overweight and obesity (class I, class II, and class III) by 2-year NHANES cycles and compared cycles by using adjusted Wald tests and linear trends by using ordinary least squares regression.

RESULTS:

White and Asian American children have significantly lower rates of obesity than African American children, Hispanic children, or children of other races. We report a positive linear trend for all definitions of overweight and obesity among children 2–19 years old, most prominently among adolescents. Children aged 2 to 5 years showed a sharp increase in obesity prevalence from 2015 to 2016 compared with the previous cycle.

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite previous reports that obesity in children and adolescents has remained stable or decreased in recent years, we found no evidence of a decline in obesity prevalence at any age. In contrast, we report a significant increase in severe obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years since the 2013–2014 cycle, a trend that continued upward for many subgroups.

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