Fifty-seven percent of children currently ages 2 to 19 will be obese by the time they are 35 years old, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Comparatively, the current obesity rate among 35-year-olds is 35 percent to 40 percent, study author Zachary Ward of Harvard University told Reuters.
"[C]hildren with obesity now could benefit from early intervention,” Ward said, noting the importance of balanced diets with less sugar, as well as better physical education programs.
Ward and a team of researchers from Harvard and George Washington University published "Simulation of Growth Trajectories of Childhood Obesity into Adulthood" on Nov. 30. They used five nationally representative studies that totaled 41,567 children and adults.
The study abstract states: "Although the current obesity epidemic has been well documented in children and adults, less is known about long-term risks of adult obesity for a given child at his or her present age and weight. ... On the basis of our simulation models, childhood obesity and overweight will continue to be a major health problem in the United States. Early development of obesity predicted obesity in adulthood, especially for children who were severely obese."
Obese children are more likely to continue to be obese with age, according to the study. Obese 2-year-olds are 75 percent likely; obese 19-year-olds are 88 percent likely. Although non-obese children are less likely to be obese at 35—and even less likely with increased age.
Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to be obese than whites, the study said, especially when obesity is present at a young age.
The study comes on the heels of several other comprehensive studies that warn of growing obesity rates. Nearly 40 percent of American adults and 20 percent of youth now have an obese body mass index (BMI), according to an October study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The full New England Journal of Medicine study can be accessed here.