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United States has highest prevalence of overweight teens in 15 country study

CHICAGO In a study of adolescents across 15 countries, adolescents in the United States had the highest prevalence of overweight, according to an article in the January issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Overweight and obesity have increased worldwide among children, adolescents and adults, according to the article. The World Health Organization has designated obesity as one of the most important public health threats because of the significant health impact of diseases associated with obesity. Obesity in adults increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Obesity in adolescents is associated with obesity-related health problems in adulthood, with 50 percent to 80 percent of obese teenagers becoming obese adults. For children and adolescents, a body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) at the 85th to 94th percentile for age generally is considered "at risk for overweight" and a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for age is generally considered "overweight."

Inge Lissau, Ph.D., Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues compared the BMI and prevalence of BMI at or above the 85th percentile and 95th percentile (overweight) in adolescents in 13 European countries, Israel and the United States.

The researchers looked at the BMIs of 29,242 boys and girls aged 13 to 15 years from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Flemish Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Ireland, Israel, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United States.

The researchers used data from school based surveys in 1997-1998 to calculate BMIs for the adolescents. They used the ages 13.5 years and 15.5 years as standard cutoff points to determine what percentile children were in.

BMIs and corresponding percentiles are as follows:

BMIs of 24.8 and 24.4 defined overweight (95th percentile) for boys and girls a
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