As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette on Sept. 22, healthier teen habits may suggest an eminent halt to the increasing obesity trend, but new research shows that the behaviors promoting adolescent obesity are not uniform. Until variances in age and gender behaviors are properly evaluated, successful interventions that promote a future reversal of the current 13% teen obesity rate may be limited.
Using the Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) surveys, researchers evaluated various activity, sedentary and dietary behaviors that have been shown to impact obesity for U.S. adolescents ages 11 to 16. Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), researchers compared Body Mass Index(BMI), physical activity frequency, computer and video game use, as well as diet composition of participants at each school year.
While teen overweight and obesity rates increased steadily from 2001 – 2006, the data showed that from 2009 - 2010 obesity rates held steady at 12.7 percent nationally, and a slight decrease of .04% to the teen overweight rate. The researchers found a corresponding increase in healthy adolescent behaviors from 2009 - 2010, which included increased amounts of physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and improved consistency in eating breakfast, compared to 2001 – 2006 levels. Researchers also found an overall decrease in television viewing, consumption of sweets and sweetened beverages during the same time period.
Yet these behaviors, as well as the resulting trends were shown to be inconsistent among the genders, which is significant when determining optimum interventions: during 2009 - 2010 the data showed boys to have greater physical activity levels than girls, but also participated in the more sedentary behaviors of TV and video gaming. Girls exceeded boys in computer use, but also consumed more fruits and vegetables. Girls also ate breakfast less often and eat sweets more frequently, however it is the boys who collectively had a higher BMI percentage when compared to the girls.
The study showed BMI percentiles to be higher in older adolescents, suggesting that the obesity prone behaviors increase with age, and a subsequent increase in obesity. Although improvement was seen, most adolescents evaluated between 2009-2010 still failed to get the daily 60 minutes of physical activity recommended for their age, and also continued to watch more than the recommended maximum two hours of television per day. Few also consumed the recommended five-plus servings of fruits and vegetables per day as well as succeeded in limiting their intake of sweets or sugar sweetened beverages to minimum recommendations.
While there exists evidence a decline in U.S. pre-school obesity rates, analyses of this recent data suggest overweight and obesity to be stabilizing for U.S. teens. Efforts to increase adolescent behaviors shown to slow the progression of teen obesity such as physical activity and reduced screen time may have progressed, but there remains a long way to go before an actual reversed obesity trend succeeds. More research is needed that takes into account variances in responses by age and gender in order to create the greatest overall success for obesity intervention in the teen population.
Report cites healthier habits in leveling of teen obesity rate, Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.com First Published September 22, 2013 12:00 am, by Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Trends in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, Diet, and BMI Among US Adolescents, 2001–2009 Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published online September 16, 2013, Ronald J. Iannotti, PhD , Jing Wang, PhD Prevention Research Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland
Official Journal American Academy of Pediatrics, published September 11, pediatrics.aappublications.org.