Brazilian children are taller and more obese, study reveals

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Brazilian children are taller and more obese. This is shown in a study conducted by researchers from the Center for Data Integration and Knowledge for Health at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Cidacs/Fiocruz Bahia), in collaboration with the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and University College London.

The results of the study indicated that, between 2001 and 2014, child height, on average, increased by 1 centimeter. The prevalence of overweight and obesity also increased considerably among the data analyzed. The prevalence of obesity among the groups analyzed rose to around 3%.

The research was published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health – America and was based on observation of the measurements of more than 5 million Brazilian children. According to the researchers, these results indicate that Brazil, like other countries around the world, is far from reaching the World Health Organization (WHO) goal of stopping the increase in the prevalence of obesity by 2030.

According to the researcher associated with Cidacs/Fiocruz Bahia and leader of the investigation, Carolina Vieira, childhood obesity is worrying. The Ministry of Health explains that both overweight and obesity refer to the excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity is a risk factor for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and some types of cancer.

“There are studies that indicate that children living with obesity increase the chance of persisting with this disease throughout their life cycle”, says Carolina. “In terms of public health, we think that the burden of these chronic non-communicable diseases and the costs associated with obesity increase over time. Therefore, effective and coordinated action is necessary, because otherwise the repercussions of this disease on public health in the coming years will be very alarming.”

The search

The study analyzed data from 5,750,214 children, aged 3 to 10 years, who are included in three administrative systems: the Single Registry for Social Programs of the Federal Government (CadÚnico), the Live Birth Information System (Sinasc) and the Food and Nutrition Surveillance (Sisvan). This enabled a longitudinal analysis, that is, throughout the lives of each of the children, using information collected over the years.

The data analyzed were divided into two groups: born from 2001 to 2007 and born from 2008 to 2014. Differences between declared sexes were also taken into account. With this, an average trajectory of body mass index (BMI) was estimated – an indicator used to determine ideal weight and variations that indicate thinness, overweight or obesity – and height for girls, and another for boys.

In the comparison between the two groups, that is, those born until 2007 and those born until 2014, considered those aged 5 to 10 years, the prevalence of excess weight increased by 3.2% among boys and 2.7% among the girls. In the case of obesity, the prevalence among boys went from 11.1% in the first group (born until 2007) to 13.8% in the second group (born until 2014), which means an increase of 2.7%. Among girls, the rate went from 9.1% to 11.2%, an increase of 2.1%.

In the 3 and 4 year old age group, the increase was smaller when comparing the two groups. Regarding excess weight, there was an increase of 0.9% among boys and 0.8% among girls. In terms of obesity, the prevalence increased from 4% to 4.5% among boys and from 3.6% to 3.9% among girls, that is, there was an increase of 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively.

The study also found an increase in the average height trajectory of the group born between 2008 and 2014 of approximately 1 centimeter for both sexes. According to Carolina Vieira, this growth reflects improvements in living and health conditions.

“Studies show that being taller has been associated with some positive health outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of heart disease and stroke and longer lifespan. But the height of the individual, the height of the child, greatly reflects economic development, the improvement of living conditions. Greater maternal education, more people living in urban areas, are some of the examples of improvements in these conditions in Brazil in recent years”, says the researcher.

Poor nutrition

In addition to the increase in obesity, Brazil faces hunger. A study by the Fome Zero Institute reveals that the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity in Brazil reached 20 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

Despite the increasing prevalence of obesity, Brazil today experiences a double burden of malnutrition: prevalence of malnourished children and obese children. “We really need to look at these two extremes – malnutrition and obesity – occurring simultaneously”, highlights Carolina Vieira.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Brazilian children taller obese study reveals

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