U.S. Teens Begin to Slim Down, Study Suggests
Adolescents are eating healthier, exercising more
By Serena Gordon
MONDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- American teens may be getting the message that carrying excess weight isn't good for them.
New research shows that the number of obese teens leveled off and the rate of overweight teens dropped slightly between 2005-'06 and 2009-'10.
Teens reported eating more fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast on weekdays more often, and being more active. They also ate fewer sweets, drank fewer sweetened beverages and spent less time watching TV, according to the study.
"Over the past four or five decades, we've seen diets getting worse, physical activity on the decline and more obese teens," said the study's lead author, Ronald Iannotti, chairman and professor of exercise and health sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. "We would see the same pattern decade after decade. The good news is that it looks like in the first decade of this century, things are starting to get better."
"At the same time, we still have a ways to go," said Iannotti, who was with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development when he began the study. "The recommendation is for children and teens to get 60 minutes of vigorous exercise every day -- or at least five days during the week -- and the majority of kids aren't getting that much. The fruit and vegetable recommendation is for at least five a day, and, again, the majority of kids aren't meeting that goal."
Results of the study were released online Sept. 16 in the journal Pediatrics.
The study looked at more than 34,000 adolescents in grades 6 through 10 during three time periods. The first group was studied from 2001-'02, the second from 2005-'06 and the final group from 2009-'10.
The students filled out questionnaires annually. They were asked about physical activity, foods they ate, whether they ate breakfast, current weight and height, and their screen-time habits.
The screen-time question included television, playing video games and computer use. Iannotti said it's important to note that computer use changed quite a bit over the study periods, so they may not have captured the full impact of computer time. In addition, he said the teens weren't asked about cellphone use, which changed significantly over the study periods.
In the earliest group, 14.9 percent were overweight and 10.3 percent were obese. By the second period, those numbers had jumped to 17 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. But for the most recent group, the rate of overweight teens dropped slightly to 16.6 percent, and the rate of obesity leveled off at 12.7 percent.
When looked at by gender, boys made more significant gains than girls. The rate of overweight and obesity leveled off for girls between the second and third periods. But the boys went from 18.4 percent overweight in the second period to 17.4 percent in the third. Their levels of obesity dropped very slightly, from 14.5 percent to 14.4 percent.