More than half United States toddlers face obesity

More than half of US two-year-olds are on track to be obese in their 30s a study warns

The likelihood is even higher for children with severe obesity, a condition that now affects 4.5 million children, the university said in a statement.

Ward is a doctoral candidate in health policy with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Center for Health Decision Science, in Boston.

Overweight and obesity are linked to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers in adulthood, he says. In some parts of the country, we're already approaching that level of obesity.

More than one-third (36.5 percent) of the U.S. adult population is afflicted with obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Ward was only surprised that childhood obesity can predict adult obesity so precisely. That reflects a tripling of the number since the 1970s.

A study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine used data from five previous studies on US population body mass indexes to create a computer model projection of what today's obese children will look like in adulthood. They then used a computer model to generate a representative sample of 1 million "virtual" children up to the age of 19, living in the year 2016.

The study by Ward and his colleagues appears in the November 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new research took data from five earlier studies about actual American children and adults' height and weight, and simulated growth trajectories in order to project where today's kids were likely to end up by the age of 35. He said that there is a growing trend among young adults with obesity.

Independent experts were not surprised by the findings since current trends clearly show more and more children are obese and the situation persists late into adulthood. Parents should not rely exclusively on public school nutrition and activity programs to do the job. But the authors cite a 2015 study in the journal Health Affairs that concluded the three most cost-effective strategies for addressing childhood obesity would be a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, setting nutritional standards for all food sold in schools (outside school meals) and the elimination of the tax subsidy that food companies tap when they advertise unhealthy food to children.

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