Objective: To examine prevalence of overweight and trends in overweight for children and adolescents in the US population.
Design: Nationally representative cross-sectional surveys with an in-person interview and a medical examination, including measurement of height and weight.
Participants: Between 3000 and 14,000 youths aged 6 through 17 years examined in each of five separate national surveys during 1963 to 1965, 1966 to 1970, 1971 to 1974, 1976 to 1980, and 1988 to 1991 (Cycles II and III of the National Health Examination Survey, and the first, second, and third National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, respectively).
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of overweight based on body mass index and 85th or 95th percentile cutoff points from Cycles II and III of the National Health Examination Survey.
Results: From 1988 to 1991, the prevalence of overweight was 10.9% based on the 95th percentile and 22% based on the 85th percentile. Overweight prevalence increased during the period examined among all sex and age groups. The increase was greatest since 1976 to 1980, similar to findings previously reported for adults in the United States.
Conclusions: Increasing overweight among youths implies a need to focus on primary prevention. Attempts to increase physical activity may provide a means to address this important public health problem.