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Teen Health

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Obese Teens at Risk for Severe Adult Obesity

Study Shows 37% of Obese Boys and 51% of Obese Girls Become Severely Obese Adults

Tracking Obese Teens continued...

Gordon-Larsen found gender and racial differences, with severe obesity rates highest among black women, with 52.4% of those who were obese as teens becoming severely obese at the study end.

Put in other terms, overall, the obese teens were 16 times more likely to develop severe obesity as young adults compared to normal-weight or overweight (but not yet obese) teens, she found.

Less than 5% of those who were at a normal weight as teens became severely obese as young adults, she found.

Those who developed severe obesity gained about 80 pounds over the 13-year follow-up, Gordon-Larsen says. "I think these numbers are pretty staggering, in terms of the amount of weight gained and the risk," she says.

The study findings are no surprise to Jessica Rieder, MD, founder and director of the Bronx Nutrition and Fitness Initiative for Teens program, or B'N'Fit, for overweight and obese teens at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. She reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

While programs to prevent childhood obesity have become more common, those to help youth already obese are less common, she says.

Advice for Parents

Gordon-Larsen tells parents of all children to "keep an eye on the weight gain."

She suggests parents have a goal of ''keeping a healthy household." That means focusing on healthy food options and building physical activity into the day, encouraging kids to walk more and move more.

Rieder agrees, suggesting that healthy changes need to be adopted by all family members, not just children who are trying to maintain or lose weight. "As a family, you adopt a healthier lifestyle for everyone," she says. "The whole family does it together."

Beyond those changes, Rieder says, ''the obese child needs a lot of support." She suggests parents of obese children and obese teens talk to their child's pediatrician and ask for screenings for diabetes, high cholesterol, and other potential problems. Ask what resources are available in the community to help your child lose weight.

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