Background and objective: Obesity is a chronic disease with a complex multifactorial nature which typically begins during childhood and adolescence. It represents one of today's most critical and escalating public health concerns for this segment of the population. The lack of obesity prevalence data at national level prompted the enKid Study (1998-2000), which was designed to evaluate the food habits and nutritional status of Spanish children and youth.
Subjects and method: Cross-sectional epidemiological study of a representative sample of the Spanish population aged 2 to 24 years (n=3534). Height and weight measurements were carried out using standard procedures and equipment. Obesity and overweight were defined according to BMI values for the 97th and 85th percentiles, respectively using Spanish reference data provided by Hernández et al (1998).
Results: The prevalence of obesity in Spain is 13.9%, while the combination of overweight and obesity yields a prevalence of 26.3% (with a prevalence of overweight alone of 12.4%). Obesity is more common in males (15.6%) than in females (12%), which was also true for overweight. With regard to age, a higher prevalence is found among those aged 6 to 13 years. As for the geographic area, Canary Islands and Andalusia show the highest prevalence and the northeast region the lowest. Obesity is also more prevalent among those people with the lowest socio-economic and educational levels, and in those who omitted or consumed a poor breakfast.
Conclusions: Compared to other countries, Spain shows an intermediate level of obesity in children and youth. Over the past decades, there has been an increasing trend towards overweight and obesity, which are more prevalent in males and during prepuberal ages.