Belly fat of us children grew by over 65% since 1999

Belly fat of us children grew by over 65% since 1999

The tummies of US teens and children have 65% more fat than in 1999, say researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Belly fat is more dangerous for health than overall weight gain, there is a much closer link between visceral fat - the fat around your internal organs - and serious diseases.

After looking at data from various US surveys, the researchers found that:

-- In 1999 10.5% of children/teens had too much belly fat

-- In 2004 17.4% of boys had too much belly fat

-- In 2004 17.8% of girls had too much belly fat

You can read about this study in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers said that children can restore their long-term health outlook much more effectively than older adults if they make some adjustments to their lifestyles.

What is Visceral Fat (Belly Fat)?

There are two types of fat, cutaneous fat and visceral fat. Cutaneous fat is found below the skin. Even though we may not like it, cutaneous fat is less dangerous for health than visceral fat. Visceral fat is located deep in the abdomen and surrounds our vital organs.

Visceral fat is metabolized by the liver, turns into cholesterol and circulates in the bloodstream. LDL (low-density lipoproteins), otherwise known as bad cholesterol, forms plaques and builds up in the arteries, gradually blocking them.

Previous studies have found that people who eat a lot of saturated fats have a higher risk of building up undesirable amounts of visceral fat (High-Fat Diet Ups Dangerous 'Hidden' Fat).

Other studies have indicated that inactivity significantly raises the risk of visceral fat build-up (Physical Inactivity Rapidly Increases Visceral Fat; Exercise Can Reverse Accumulation).

Opinion of Editor of

This is not just a US phenomenon. All over the world children are building up more tummy fat. I am British and live in Cancun, Mexico. I have noticed children in both the UK and Mexico are going the same way as kids/teens in America are.

About one year ago my wife and I noticed that our 13-year-old son was putting on too many pounds. I offered to take him to the gym every evening with me, at 6pm - he agreed. The gym allows him to use their cardiovascular equipment, as long as I am around. He does 30 minutes cardiovascular training (aerobic, treadmill, stepping machine, cross-trainer, and cycling machine) each day - Monday to Friday. There are good trainers around who give him excellent advice and help him organize his routines. He looks leaner, is much fitter and seems to have a firmer stance/gait.

I believe you are more likely to get your reluctant, non-sporty child involved in some physical activity if family members and/or friends are also actively there. Eventually, I hope, his fitness and improved self-confidence will lead to his being more enthusiastic about trying to get into school sports teams. If not, he can continue going to the gym with me. It does him good, and I have benefited greatly.

Encouraging him to eat more sensibly has been harder. Children eat at school, schools have shops, and schools have other children. We often explain to him the benefits of a good diet, and the possible consequences of a bad one. I think he is gradually slanting in the right direction.

I recognize that as a parent it is not easy. The world is such today that physical activity and good eating habits have to be done consciously - the whole family has to make an effort. Most roads are congested and the majority of kids can't just cycle to school anymore - the risk of being hit by a vehicle is much greater than it was 50 years ago, TVs, computers and video games have made us more sedentary, cities are becoming designed more and more for drivers rather than walkers. Children like to eat what their peers eat. Most snacks aimed at children and sold in shops are not usually designed to be healthy. It is an uphill struggle for both parents and children.

"Recent Trends in Waist Circumference and Waist-Height Ratio Among US Children and Adolescents"

Chaoyang Li, MD, PhD, Earl S. Ford, MD, MPH, Ali H. Mokdad, PhD and Stephen Cook, MD

PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 5 November 2006, pp. e1390-e1398 (doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1062)

Click here to see abstract online


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