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TABLE 4-5 Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among U.S. Children, by Age, 2007–2008

Age Group (in years, both genders)

Percentage of Children (95% CI) with High BMI Determined from CDC Growth Charts

≥ 85th Percentile

≥ 95th Percentile

≥ 97th Percentile


21.2 (17.3–25.1)

10.4 (7.6–13.1)

6.9 (4.8–9.0)


35.5 (32.4–38.7)

19.6 (17.1–22.2)

14.5 (12.2–16.8)


34.2 (30.5–37.8)

18.1 (14.5–21.7)

12.5 (9.9–15.0)

NOTES: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Pregnant adolescents were excluded. Values for BMIs were rounded to one decimal place. BMI = body mass index; CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CI = confidence interval.

SOURCE: Derived from Ogden et al., 2010.

cence. Data from the 2007–2008 NHANES reveal that 9.5 percent of all U.S. children from birth to 2 years of age had high weight for length (>95th percentile) (Ogden et al., 2010). Table 4-5 shows that, during the same period, the prevalence of overweight and of obesity was high for all children ages 2 years and older and was highest in the group ages 6–11 years.

In another analysis of the NHANES 2007–2008 data, Koebnick et al. (2010) found that, of all the ethnic-racial groups considered, non-Hispanic black adolescent children had the highest prevalence of BMI (≥ 85th percentile; 44.5 percent), and Hispanic boys had significantly higher odds of being overweight or obese compared with non-Hispanic white boys (odds ratio [OR] = 1.65 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14–2.38]). Non-Hispanic black girls were significantly more likely to have high BMI compared with non-Hispanic white girls (OR for ≥ 85th percentile = 1.58 [95% CI: 0.36–0.65]). Extreme obesity, defined by Koebnick and colleagues as a BMI-for-age ≥ 1.2 times the 95th percentile by the CDC, was observed in 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls. The prevalence of extreme obesity varied among ethnic-racial and age groups, with the highest prevalence in Hispanic boys (as high as 11.2 percent) and African-American girls (up to 11.9 percent).

Data covering the four decades from 1963 to 2005 show that the proportion of obese children ages 2 to 19 years increased substantially (see Figure 4-1). An examination of NHANES data across the period 1999–2008 (Figure 4-2), however, demonstrates that the only statistically significant trend indicating an increased prevalence of obesity occurred at BMIs of ≥ 97th percentile for boys ages 6 through 19 years (data not shown). Even if the prevalence of obesity is no longer rising among children, the high prevalence remains of great concern to the health of the nation’s children.

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