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Schoolchildren are getting leaner again, according to a scientific study
Parents and children read in the newspaper almost every day: Students in Germany are increasingly overweight or obese. It is true that the prevalence of overweight has increased rapidly in the past 20 years. According to a study by doctors from the University Children's Clinic in Ulm, the average weight among primary school children has been falling slightly since 2008.
Obesity and obesity are among the greatest challenges facing western industrialized countries. The food industry, which produces and promotes foods and beverages with tons of sugar and artificial flavors, has a significant share in this fact. The biggest victims of this excessive consumerism are children, who are indoctrinated by the partial ignorance of their parents and the influence of advertising. However, a critical attitude has apparently developed over the past few years that the food industry is no longer uncritical and leads a more conscious lifestyle. This trend is likely to continue in the upbringing of children. For several years now, researchers have been able to determine a positive weight gain in children. Scientists from Ulm University Hospital have published an extensive study on this subject in the specialist journal "European Journal of Pediatrics". The conclusion: statistically speaking, Germany's children are getting thinner again.
3 percent less obesity among school beginners
As part of the study, the team led by researcher Dr. Anja Moß the weight and height data of over 600,000 children who were enrolled all over Germany. The data came from the results of the school entrance examinations from the school entrance year 2008. The results of the last examinations of school beginners from 2004 served as comparative data. Overall, the research team was able to determine that the proportion of overweight children decreased by a good 3 percent. This significant change was found in 14 of 16 federal states. Only in the federal states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg was there an almost insignificant increase in the average weight.
However, the scientists do not want their results to be misunderstood. After all, the thoroughly positive development in no way means "that we can stop our efforts to prevent obesity and obesity", as the specialist for pediatrics Dr. Martin Wabitsch from Ulm emphasized. Because despite the decline shown, "the rates of obese and overweight school children in Germany remain at a high level," as the pediatrician explained.
Most overweight first graders in Bremen and Thuringia
In the federal states of Bremen and Thuringia, the most overweight school beginners live at 11.9 percent. Followed by Bavaria with a share of 8.6 and Brandenburg with 8.5 and Saxony with 8.4 percent. The federal states of Saarland and Thuringia each have a high proportion of obese children, with 5.1 percent each. Although the proportion of overweight children in Brandenburg and Saxony is relatively high, the proportion of obese children is low at 3.3 percent each. Even in Bavaria, the proportion of obese first graders is low at 3.4 percent, despite the relatively high proportion of still “normal overweight” at 3.4 percent.
Trend reversal possibly through efforts to educate
The study authors can only speculate as to why a trend reversal is recognizable. "We do not know why we saw a drop in weight among school beginners," said study leader Moß. But: "Increased awareness of obesity and the educational efforts of doctors and professional associations probably contribute to this." You can only support this assumption with further studies. It cannot be deduced from the available data whether the prevention campaigns have resulted in "fewer children getting fat".
Consequences for health
Overweight and obesity (overweight with disease value) at a young age can have fatal health consequences. The risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, back pain and other orthopedic ailments increases enormously. Overweight children are often socially disadvantaged and teased by other children. Such psychological factors in turn favor depression. “Then a real vicious circle begins, says graduate teacher Gritli Bertram from Hanover. "Most children then eat more out of frustration". Most parents and children know "that they should move more, eat better and change their behavior, but they simply cannot do it," says Anja Moß.
From when overweight is defined as such, experts disagree. The World Health Organization says there are three weight categories. For most school physicians and medical associations, this division is an important orientation. Underweight is a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5. Anyone with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight. A BMI of over 25 is considered overweight and from a BMI 30 doctors speak of obesity or obesity. One speaks of massive obesity from a value of 40.
The BMI is calculated on the one hand from age, body weight and height in meters. An example: A person with a height of 160 cm and a body weight of 60 kg has a BMI of 23.4. Calculated: 60 kg by (1.6 m) 2 = 23.4 BMI. If the person is between 19-24 years old, the BMI is in the ideal range. However, this calculation basis only applies to adults. Children have completely different foundations. Because in children, the determination of the values changes continuously due to age and gender. Therefore, the BMI is recorded here using a uniform growth curve, which is then compared with the weight of the peers. This enabled the scientists to determine a classification of ideal weight, overweight and obesity during the research work. According to statistical data, obesity is when 90 percent of children of the same age and gender have a lower BMI. If the child weighs more than 97 percent of the peer group of the same age, then there is already obese disease.
Trend reversal in other industrialized countries too
A slight reversal of the trend can also be observed in the USA. A team of researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville had examined the data from more than 4,000 children and adolescents and 5555 adults. Here too, the surveys date from 2008. The scientists led by Katherine Flegal came to the conclusion that at least obesity in the USA no longer increased significantly. However, 9.5 percent of children under the age of 14 and 18 percent of American adolescents are overweight. In other industrialized countries such as France, Denmark, Sweden or Australia, recent studies have shown that the increase in the problem of overweight has stopped at first. The numbers therefore show that the problem still exists in massive form, but at least does not continue.
Whether the classification of obesity or overweight still exists today is still a subject of heated debate among experts. Recent health-related analyzes have shown that being slightly overweight does not make you sick straight away. Some doctors claim that a few pounds too much increases life expectancy and also makes people less sick. However, such studies should also be treated with caution, since it is hardly possible to make a general judgment about the individual nature of people. If you have a few kilograms more in childhood, you can still be of normal weight at a later age. "If you are slightly overweight at three or eight years of age, you may see that with the next growth spurt," says Anja Moß. However, the scientists' opinion of obesity is clearer: That definitely damages health, as the researcher thinks. (sb)
The BMI depends on age. The table shows which BMI values apply to different age groups according to the WHO recommendations:
19-24 years / BMI: 19-24
25-34 years / BMI: 20-25
35-44 years / BMI: 21-26
45-54 years / BMI: 22-27
55-64 years / BMI: 23-28
from 64 years / BMI: 24-29
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Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de