Prevalence of Obesity and Trends in Body Mass Index Among US Children and Adolescents, 1999-2010

Study Questions:

What are the current estimates for obesity prevalence among children and adolescents residing in the United States for 2009-2010?


This was a cross-sectional analysis of a representative sample of US children and adolescents (birth to 19 years) with measured heights and weights from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2010. The main outcome measures were prevalence of high weight-for-recumbent length (≥95th percentile on the growth charts) among infants and toddlers from birth to 2 years of age, and obesity (body mass index [BMI], ≥95th percentile of the BMI-for-age growth charts) among children and adolescents ages 2 through 19 years. Analyses of trends in obesity by sex and race/ethnicity, and analyses of trends in BMI within sex-specific age groups were examined for six survey periods (1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010) over 12 years.


A total of 4,111 children and adolescents were included in this sample from NHANES. In 2009-2010, 9.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.6%-12.3%) of infants and toddlers had a high weight-for-recumbent length. In the same time period, 16.9% (95% CI, 15.4%-18.4%) of children and adolescents from 2 through 19 years of age were obese. There was no difference in obesity prevalence among males (p = 0.62) or females (p = 0.65) between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010. The trend analyses over a 12-year period indicated a significant increase in obesity prevalence between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 in males ages 2 through 19 years (odds ratio [OR], 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01-1.10), but not in females (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.98-1.07). There was a significant increase in BMI among adolescent males ages 12 through 19 years (p = 0.04), but not among any other age group or among females.


The authors concluded that in 2009-2010, the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents was 16.9%. The prevalence has not changed compared to data from 2007-2008.


These data are encouraging in that no increase in the prevalence of obesity was observed from 2007 through 2010, and that females do not appear to have increases in obesity over the 12-year time period examined. However, understanding factors related to the increases in obesity seen among males is required to prevent further adverse trends in this group.

Keywords: Outcome Assessment (Health Care), Odds Ratio, Body Mass Index, Overweight, Cross-Sectional Studies, Growth Charts, Obesity, Confidence Intervals, Nutrition Surveys, United States

< Back to Listings