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Kids' Weight Can Forecast Adult Obesity

It's Not Just the Heaviest Kids Who Are at Risk

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Along those lines, parents may not want to emphasize weight when helping kids build a healthy lifestyle, says Field. Making the changes fun, seamless, and lasting might work better than presenting them as a chore required by numbers on a scale.

Field and colleagues studied 314 Boston-area children. The kids' weight, height, and blood pressure were noted when they were about 11 years old, on average. A follow-up screening was done eight to 12 years later, when the kids were young adults.

Nearly half of the boys (48%) and a quarter of the girls (about 24%) became overweight or obese between the two visits. Those with a higher -- but still normal -- childhood BMI (body mass index) were more likely to become overweight adults. BMI is a measure of weight based on height. Doctors have charts they use to determine if a child falls in the normal range.

"Being in the upper one-half of the normal weight range (i.e. BMI between the 50th and 84th percentiles for age and sex in childhood) was a good predictor of becoming overweight as a young adult," write the researchers.

For instance, girls and boys between the 50th and 74th percentile for BMI were about five times more likely to become overweight compared with their peers below the 50th BMI percentile.

Those who were heavier -- between the 75th and 84th percentiles -- were up to 20 times more likely to become overweight young adults. That's in comparison with kids at the bottom half of normal BMI range.

When it came to blood pressure, more young men than women had problems. High blood pressure occurred in 12% of the young men compared with about 2% of women.

High blood pressure was more common among young men who had been on the heavier side of normal as children.

High blood pressure was four times more likely for boys between the 75th and 85th percentiles for childhood BMI compared to those with childhood BMI below the 75th percentile.

By the same comparison, boys above the 85th BMI percentile were five times more likely to have high blood pressure as young adults.

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