02:54am Friday 15 December 2017

Changes in the proportion of overweight children

Illustration photoThe proportion increased on average from 16 to 19 per cent. This is shown by new figures from the Child Growth Study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It is too early to say whether this increase reflects a trend.

The Child Growth Study is a nationwide study that started in 2008 to monitor growth trends among Norwegian third graders (eight year-olds) over time. This is the only study in Norway that monitors a child’s height, weight and waist circumference.

The study was conducted for the second time in 2010, and the next measurements are scheduled for 2012 at the same schools. Almost nine out of ten pupils participated in the study in both 2008 and 2010.
A total of 127 schools are taking part in this project.

Results from 2010

The results from the Child Growth Study 2010 show that:

  • 19 per cent of girls were defined as overweight and three per cent were obese (total 22 per cent). 
  • 12 per cent of boys were defined as overweight and five per cent were obese (total 17 per cent). 
  • On average, third grade girls were 131 cm high and the boys were 133 cm high. 
  • The average weight is 29.3 kg and 29.6 kg for girls and boys respectively. 
  • The average body mass index (BMI) is 16.7 and 16.6 kg/m2 for girls and boys respectively.

For adults, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 is defined as overweight and 30 kg/m2 and higher is defined as obesity. For children aged 2-18 years, BMI-definitions for overweight and obesity are adjusted by age and gender (IOTF or Cole index).

 barnevekst-2010
The figure shows the percentage of overweight (overvekt) and obesity (fedme) in Norway in 2008 and 2010. Both sexes combined (kjønn samlet) and separate (boys = gutter, girls = jenter). Overweight and obesity are defined according to the IOTF (Cole index).

Changes in the 8 year-olds weight from 2008 to 2010

Regional differences

Looking at the national average, the proportion with obesity remained unchanged and amounted to four per cent in both 2008 and 2010.

Looking at the health regions, there are some changes. In 2008, the proportion with obesity was between three and five per cent in the health regions. In 2010, the range is larger, and the proportion with obesity is between three and six per cent.

Health Region North and Health Region Central had the highest proportion of overweight and obesity combined in both 2008 and 2010.

In the Child Growth Study the waist circumference is measured. A high waist circumference generally follows the same pattern as for obesity, with the highest waist circumference in Health Region North.

 Barnevekst-regioner-2010 (2)
The figure shows the percentage of overweight (overvekt) and obesity (fedme) in Norway in 2008 and 2010. By whole country (Norway = Norge) and health region (from second left – SE, W, Mid, N). Overweight and obesity are defined according to the IOTF (Cole index).

Differences between boys and girls

The percentage of children with overweight and obesity changed from 16 to 19 per cent in the period 2008-2010 for both sexes combined.

When we look at the sexes separately, there is a higher proportion of overweight and obesity among girls than among boys. This applies to both years:

  • 2008: 17 per cent of girls and 14 per cent of boys were overweight or obese
  • 2010: 22 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys were overweight or obese

The height of the children has not changed in these two years. However, the national average for weight has increased by 400 grams from 2008 to 2010.

What do the results mean?

“The new figures are worrying and we must monitor them closely in the future. After two measurements, it is too early to say anything about the trend in Norway, but the Child Growth Study will continue to be conducted every second year in the same schools. The next measurements are due in 2012 and will be able to show whether the change we now see is indicative of a growing trend” says project leader Ragnhild Hovengen at the NIPH.

Even though Norway has seen an increase in overweight and obesity among children in the 1970s, the levels are significantly lower than countries in southern Europe and in England.

“The changes we see suggest that levels have stabilised when it comes to obesity among children in Norway. A similar study in Sweden also shows an increase in obesity in these two years, especially in girls” says Hovengen.

Hovengen points out that the results from the Child Growth Study show how important it is to have systematic national measurements to monitor the development of overweight and obesity among children in Norway, in order to better plan and introduce preventative measures.

Important measures for centre-based day care and schools

The Child Growth Study is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Directorate of Health and WHO, with similar studies being carried out in about 25 European countries.

”Studies of this type that show weight trends over time are very important. That the proportion of overweight eight year-olds in Norway has increased and that 22 per cent of girls at this age are now overweight or obese is alarming” said Knut-Inge Klepp, Division Director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

Earlier this year the Directorate of Health issued national clinical guidelines for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. Here emphasis is placed on measures related to centre-based childcare and school, including access to safe school routes and a recreation area as important preventive measures.

Klepp said it is important to ensure good dietary habits and increased physical activity among the youngest schoolchildren. The Directorate of Health also released new national guidelines for weighing and measuring at health clinics and in the school health service earlier this year. There it is pointed out that school start and third grade are important stages in terms of establishing healthy lifestyle habits.

“Height and weight measurements will provide a good basis for follow up, both for the parents of each pupil and the school so preventive measures can be introduced. Follow-up and implementation of these guidelines is a priority for the Directorate of Health” said Klepp.

About the Child Growth Study

Third graders at 127 schools across the country were invited to participate in the Child Growth Study. Schools were chosen at random. The measurements were carried out in October 2008 and 2010. Nine out of ten students participated in both measurement periods. The next measurement is planned for autumn 2012 for third graders in the same schools.

The measurements are taken individually in the school health office. Height, weight and waist circumference are measured. Children are not given the results of their measurements.


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