According to predictions by Harvard researchers, 57 percent of children will grow up to be obese by age 35. Half of these 57 percent are predicted to be already obese as children, while the other half are expected to develop obesity after becoming adults.
“It’s definitely a shocking and sobering number,” said Zachary Ward, lead author of the study. “But if you look at trends in weight gain over the past 40 years, it’s not too surprising we’re heading in this direction.”
The statistics seem more and more shocking every time they make the headlines — and that’s because America as a whole has been on a trend towards obesity, despite billions of dollars of efforts to combat weight gain.
“This could just become the new normal the way things are going,” Ward said.
The researchers used BMI to measure more than 41,000 children between 2 and 19 years old. They then analyzed data from five different obesity studies that nationally represent the U.S. population in 2016. They used the data to create “virtual populations” of more than 1 million children. They then repeated the process 1,000 times.
Children who were already obese were shown to be more likely than not to remain obese into adulthood — and the probability of adult obesity increases rapidly as children grow older. “A child who is severely obese at age 2 has only a one-in-five chance of not being obese by 35. By age 5, that chance is halved to one-in-10,” the study’s results read.
Current anti-obesity efforts are not resulting in long-term weight loss for most children; between 1990 and 2010, obesity among children grew by 60 percent. Why this continues to happen despite widespread effort to maintain weight loss is confusing to scientists. It’s not like America’s children are gorging themselves on diets guaranteed to make you gain weight.