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Study: Nearly 60 percent of US children are at risk of obesity by age 35

A new study revealed that 57 percent of U.S. children and teenagers could be obese by age 35. The study found that children who are severely obese face the greatest risk of remaining obese into adulthood. (Getty Images)

Unless current weight-gain trends and eating habits change, some 57 percent of U.S. children and teenagers could be obese by age 35, a new study revealed.

The study used body mass index, or BMI, data from 41,000 children between ages 2 and 19 to arrive at that figure. BMI considers weight and height in determining if someone is obese.

How early does this start?

The risk of becoming an obese adult can start as early as age 2. According to the study: “A two-year-old who is obese is more likely to be obese at 35 years of age than an overweight 19-year-old. A child who is severely obese at age two has only a one-in-five chance of not being obese by 35. By age five, that chance is halved to one-in-10."

Children who are severely obese face the greatest risk of remaining obese into adulthood, the study found.

Zachary Ward, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, called the study "sobering," adding that it is also not surprising.

"It should not be surprising that we are heading in this direction. We are already approaching this level of adult obesity for certain subgroups [and] areas of the country." Ward said.

How serious is it?

Prevention is needed because children who remain obese can face serious health risks later on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity is linked to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Since 1980, the worldwide obesity rate has doubled. About one in three adults in the U.S. are obese, along with one in seven children.

What can be done?

The findings, Ward said, show the need for stepped-up prevention efforts from infancy through young adulthood. That typically involves following a healthy diet and exercising more.

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