Childhood obesity increases the risk for adult obesity and diseases. The aim of this study was to investigate secular changes of childhood body mass index (BMI), overweight and obesity in boys born during 1946–2006, using the population-based BMI Epidemiology STudy (BEST) cohort in Gothenburg, Sweden.
We collected height and weight from archived school health records for boys born every 5 years 1946–2006 (birth cohort 1946 n=1584, each birth cohort 1951–2006 n=425). Childhood BMI at 8 years of age was obtained for all the participants.
Childhood BMI increased 0.18 kg m−2 (95% confidence interval: 0.16–0.20) per decade increase in birth year, during 1946–2006. The increase was significant from birth year 1971, peaked 1991 and was then followed by a stabilization or tendency to a reduction. Next, we aimed to thoroughly explore the trend after birth year 1991 and therefore expanded birth cohorts 1991 (n=1566), 2001 (n=6478) and 2006 (n=6515). Importantly, decreases in mean BMI (P<0.01), prevalences of overweight (P<0.01) and obesity (P<0.05) were observed after birth year 1991. For boys born in Sweden and with parents born in Sweden, a substantial reduction in the prevalences of overweight (−28.6%, P<0.001) and obesity (−44.3%, P<0.001) were observed between birth year 1991 and birth year 2006.
This long-term study captures both the rise and the recent decline of childhood obesity. As childhood obesity is strongly associated with subsequent adult obesity, we anticipate a similar reduction in adult obesity during the coming decades in Swedish men.
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We are grateful to the late Bo Thalén, former director of The Archives of City of Gothenburg and Region Västra Götaland, for invaluable encouragement and guiding in the digitalization process, and to Maria Nethander, Bioinformatics Core Facility, for excellent statistical contributions. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council and by grants from the Swedish government (under the Avtal om Läkarutbildning och Medicinsk Forskning [Agreement for Medical Education and Research]), the Lundberg Foundation, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Anna Ahrenberg Foundation and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on International Journal of Obesity website (http://www.nature.com/ijo)