Childhood obesity continues to increase in Portugal, according to a study by the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP), which evaluated the incidence and prevalence of this health indicator in children from the Porto Metropolitan Area, who are part of the longitudinal study Generation XXI.
Obesity is now described as an epidemic and is probably one of the major health problems of children in the Western world. Obese children are at greater risk of becoming obese adults and are more susceptible to the development of metabolic diseases earlier. For this reason, characterizing the obesity epidemic and identifying the ages at greatest risk for the development of the condition are of major importance.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, “described the incidence (new cases) and prevalence (total number of individuals with the condition) of obesity in children who are part of the Generation XXI project, which since 2005 follows more than 8600 children from the Metropolitan Area of Porto. We wanted to gather in a single article the estimates of obesity throughout childhood for boys and girls who are part of this cohort”, explains Ana Cristina Santos, the coordinator of the research.
The researchers estimated obesity based on the evaluations performed within the cohort at the ages of 4, 7 and 10 years of the participants.
“Unlike the countries of Northern Europe where there seems to be a stabilization in the numbers of childhood obesity, we have seen that in Portugal there is an increase in the incidence and prevalence of obesity among children. In the Generation XXI, a longitudinal cohort of the population of Porto, we did not find evidence of a stabilization of obesity”, the researcher says.
The researchers found that the number of new cases of obesity increased in early childhood, from 4 to 7 years, and that girls at 4 years of age already have a higher prevalence of obesity than boys.
According to Ana Cristina Santos, these data show that “it is necessary to continue investing in the prevention of childhood obesity and the necessary interventions must occur at an early age, contributing to a greater effectiveness in reducing this health problem in Portugal”.
The article is entitled Time Trends in prevalence and incidence rates of childhood overweight and obesity in Portugal: Generation XXI birth cohort. The researchers Ana Isabel Freitas and Carla Moreira also participated in the study.