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Research shows older children, adolescents grew heavier in Brazil, China, U.S. over past 30 years

CHAPEL HILL -- Over the past three decades, the percentage of older children and adolescents who were overweight tripled in Brazil and almost doubled in the United States, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

Between 1991 and 1997, the percentage of overweight children climbed 20 percent in China but dropped by almost half in Russia, which fell on economic hard times.

The UNC study is the first to use similar data to compare changes in weight among children in those nations, which contain about a third of the world's population, authors said. It underscores the global significance of health-damaging weight gain among a sizeable percentage of youth.

"This work shows the burden of nutritional problems is shifting from energy deficiencies to energy excesses among many children in countries like Brazil and China," said lead author Dr. Youfa Wang. "Changes like this pose a major challenge for lower income countries, which in some cases face a growing double burden -- both obesity and poor nutrition. We believe nutrition programs for children and adolescents around the world should be revised to consider these rapidly emerging concerns."

A report on the findings appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Besides Wang, now assistant professor of human nutrition, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, authors are Drs. Carlos Monteiro, professor of nutrition at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at the UNC School of Public Health and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

"We used nationally representative survey data from these four nations collected over the past several decades with a new international standard for measuring child and adolescent obesity," Popkin said. "We attempted to fill a gap by exploring trends in the shift from underweight to overweight among older children ages 6 to
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
23-May-2002


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