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Many Kindergarteners Already on Road to Obesity, Study Finds
Date:11/23/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Today's kindergarteners are heavier than kids brought up in the 1970s and 1980s and appear to be on the road to becoming overweight and obese in the years to come, a new study finds.

"It's not just kids who are already overweight getting more and more so, there is an entire shift. Even those who are normal weight are gaining weight," said lead study author Ashlesha Datar, senior economist at RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.

Researchers analyzed data on nearly 6,000 white, black and Hispanic children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -- a nationally representative sample -- and had their height and weight measured over nine years, in kindergarten, first, third, fifth and eighth grades.

The study found nearly 40 percent of kindergarteners had a body mass index (BMI) in the 75th percentile or above, up from 25 percent in the 1970s and 1980s, when the growth charts were developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While a BMI in the 75th percentile is still in the normal range, that child may be headed for being overweight or obese, Datar said. And if they're already at the 75th percentile in kindergarten, they don't have far to go before they tip into the overweight or obese category, which puts them at risk of serious health problems as adults.

Traditionally, a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentile is considered overweight, while above the 95th percentile is obese. The number of kids at the top of the scale has swelled too.

About 28 percent of kids from the current sample had a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentiles, compared with 10 percent of earlier generations, while 12 percent had a BMI above the 95th percentile, compared with 5 percent of the earlier group of kids.

Gains in BMI were most striking among Hispanic children and black girls, according to the stu
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