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Young Americans getting fat faster

Celebrity chef and healthful eating activist Jamie Oliver has made research suggesting that today's children may be the first generation ever to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents a pillar of his Food Revolution.

Wait till he gets a load of the latest. A new study from the University of Michigan Health System shows that young people are becoming obese at younger ages than members of earlier generations did.

The research, to be published Monday in the International Journal of Obesity, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and found that:

Recent birth cohorts are becoming obese in greater proportions for a given age, and are experiencing a greater duration of obesity over their lifetime. For example, although the 1966-1975 and 1976-1985 birth cohorts had reached an estimated obesity prevalence of at least 20% by 20-29 years of age, this level was only reached by 30-39 years for the 1946-1955 and 1956-1965 birth cohorts, by 40-49 years for the 1936-1945 birth cohort and by 50-59 years of age for the 1926-1935 birth cohort.

The findings were more pronounced among blacks and women.

Given that obesity is often associated with such chronic--and costly--conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality, the research suggests a scenario in which many members of the rising generation may spend a big chunk of their truncated lives dealing with such illnesses.

The research puts a damper on recent findings that obesity rates among young people may be leveling off:

Even under the assumption that period trends in obesity are stabilizing across most birth cohorts, our life course approach places these trends in a different perspective. Even if the plateau in obesity prevalence persists beyond this 2-year period trend, because younger generations already are carrying a higher obesity prevalence as well as a longer duration of obesity for a given age compared with previous generations, this raises the question of whether "halting" or stabilizing the epidemic currently will be enough to change future rates of obesity-related morbidity and mortality among younger generations. Our findings suggest that initiatives must not only halt but actually reverse population trends in obesity in order to return risks of obesity-related complications to levels experienced by older generations.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign aims to end childhood obesity within a generation. Let's hope that's soon enough.

Can Twitter solve this problem? Probably not; but let's tweet, anyway. Look for me and the other Local Living writers at @wposthome/local-living. And keep track of my "Me Minus 10" effort to lose 10 pounds before I turn 50 at

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 8, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Cardiovascular Health , Chronic Conditions , Diabetes , Family Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity , School Nutrition  
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I don't see what cohort data on obesity rates in which "younger generations" means people born between 1966 and 1985 has to do with present-day child obesity rates.

Posted by: qaz1231 | April 8, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

any parent that allows their child to become obese is a disgrace and should be sterilized.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | April 9, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

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