Think only adults pile on the pounds when encountering lifestyle changes? Apparently, even kids go through a similar phase, particularly in between first and third grade and when middle school ends. According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, this weight gain happens at what researchers call a “critical time” for kids – where they gain a whopping 5.7% of their body mass index (BMI).
Over 6,000 children from kindergarten to eighth grade were included in the study. The researchers took note of their individual standings in the national percentile chart of children’s BMI. 4,200 of these kids were Caucasian, almost 700 African-American, and more than 1,000 Hispanic. The researchers chose the mix of lineage in order to monitor not just how BMI changes over time for overweight or obese children, but also for all children in general.
Almost 40 percent of the children’s BMI fell in the 75th percentile or higher in the early years of the study (kindergarten). In between first and third grade, a 6 percent jump was observed, but generally the BMI became constant during middle school. The researchers also noted that the Hispanic and the African-American children were the ones whose BMI increases were the greatest.
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Another alarming observation was that besides gaining weight, the children are actually generally heavier when they enter the “critical time” in elementary. Healthy People Alliance reports that 40 percent of the kids within the 75th percentile is a high jump from the mere 25 percent held by children during the 1970s and 1980s.
Given the observed pattern of weight gain among children, health experts are especially concerned, thinking of ways to prevent kids from gaining weight in the noted periods. Said Ashlesha Datar, childhood obesity researcher and health economist at the RAND corporation in Santa Monica, California, "This can be a springboard to say, What is it about this period that's causing children to gain weight?"