Objectives: To determine the prevalence of obesity among sixth- and seventh-grade students in a school-based setting, and to identify lifestyle parameters associated with obesity.
Methods: Sixth- and seventh-grade students (n = 385, 186 boys and 199 girls) from 3 schools participated in a school-based screening study, and 319 completed a short questionnaire. Height and weight were measured, and body fat as a percentage of body weight was obtained using a Tanita bioelectrical impedance scale.
Results: Overall, 35.3% of students had a body mass index (BMI; calculated as the weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared) at or above the 85th percentile, and half these students (17.4%) had a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Rates were higher among Latino and lower among Asian than non-Hispanic white students. Significant associations were found between BMI and hours of television watched per evening and daily soft drink consumption. The mean (SE) BMI z score for those watching less than 2 hours per night (0.34 [0.09]) was lower than for those watching 2 or more hours per night (0.82 [0.08]; P<.001). The mean (SE) BMI z score for those consuming less than 3 soft drinks per day (0.51 [0.07]) was lower than for those consuming 3 or more soft drinks per day (1.02 [0.13]; P =.003). Latino students watched more television (2.4 hours per night) than did non-Hispanic white or Asian students (1.3 hours per night; P<.001 for each) and consumed more soft drinks (1.6 per day) than non-Hispanic white students (1.1 per day; P =.004) or Asian students (0.7 per day; P<.001).
Conclusions: Time spent watching television and the number of soft drinks consumed were significantly associated with obesity. Latinos spent more time watching television and consumed more soft drinks than did non-Hispanic white or Asian students. These findings will be beneficial in developing preventive measures for these children.