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More U.S. Children Severely Obese, Study Says

Report, which conflicts with recent CDC review, finds growing number of kids likely to suffer serious health problems
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Katz called the new findings alarming.

"This paper will come as a sobering reality check for any who believed the recent headlines about childhood obesity rates plummeting," he said.

Severe obesity in children is rising, he said, adding that this is a critical piece of information.

"Severe obesity is much more likely to induce serious chronic disease and steal years from life," Katz said. "It calls out for clinical interventions, up to and including weight-loss surgery."

Also, a cultural sea change is needed, Katz said. "We cannot deny kids daily physical activity and peddle junk foods to them and fail to reap what we are sowing," he said.

Skinner agreed. "Every kid in this country deserves access to healthy food and chances to be active," she said.

For the new study, Skinner's team examined data on nearly 26,700 children ages 2 to 19 years old. For the years 2011-12, they found 32 percent of America's children were overweight and 17 percent were obese. Among obese kids, 8 percent were severely obese, the researchers said.

When specific categories of obesity were examined, more bad news emerged. Among girls, the researchers found obesity rates jumped from 14.5 percent in 1999-2000 to 17.4 percent by 2011-12. And severe obesity among girls climbed from 0.9 percent in 1999-2000 to 2.3 percent by 2011-12.

In boys, obesity rose from 14.6 percent in 1999-2000 to 17.2 percent by 2011-12, while severe obesity grew from 1 percent to 2 percent.

More research is needed to determine which public health programs, if any, are helpful in preventing obesity, the study authors said.

Whether public health campaigns alone will turn around rates of severe obesity is questionable, the researchers said.

"Unfortunately, the high prevalence and upward trend of more severe forms of obesity will likely require more intensive interventions than can be done through widespread public health efforts," the study said.

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