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Time trends in prevalence and incidence rates of childhood overweight and obesity in Portugal: Generation XXI birth cohort


Childhood obesity estimates are steadily increasing worldwide. There is strong evidence that overweight children before puberty maintain this nutritional status for life. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence and incidence rates of overweight and obesity among children recruited as part of the Generation XXI birth cohort. Of the 8036 included children, 5497, 5397 and 4956 of them had follow-up measurements at 4, 7 and 10 years of age, respectively. The chi-square test, Student’s t-test, and survival curves were estimated according to sex. The prevalence of overweight remained stable at 4 and 7 years of age (22.0% and 22.1%, respectively) and slightly increased at age 10 (26.1%). Conversely, obesity prevalence increased with age (from 10.6 to 16.8%). Overweight was more prevalent in girls at all follow-ups, whilst obesity was similar between sexes at ages 4 and 7 (p= 0.050 and p = 0.218, respectively) but was more prevalent in boys at age 10 (p = 0.017). The incidence of obesity between 4 and 7 years of age was 11.4/1000 person-years, decreasing to 3.2/1000 person-years between 7 and 10 years of age. Our results reveal a high prevalence/incidence of obesity mainly among 4 and 7-year-old children, heightening the need for interventions at early ages to effectively curb childhood obesity in Portugal.

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Generation XXI was funded by Programa Operacional de Saúde – Saúde XXI, Quadro Comunitário de Apoio III and Administração Regional de Saúde Norte (Regional Department of Ministry of Health). This study was funded by FEDER through the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Internationalization and national funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology – FCT (Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education) (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016837) under the project “PathMOB: Risco cardiometabólico na infância: desde o início da vida ao fim da infância” (Ref. FCT PTDC/DTP-EPI/3306/2014) and by the Unidade de Investigação em Epidemiologia - Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (EPIUnit) (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006862; Ref. UID/DTP/04750/2013), and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Ana Cristina Santos holds an FCT Investigator contract IF/01060/2015. This study is also a result of the project DOCnet (NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000003), supported by Norte Portugal Regional Operational Programme (NORTE 2020), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The authors gratefully acknowledge the families enrolled in Generation XXI for their kindness, all members of the research team for their enthusiasm and perseverance and the participating hospitals and their staff for their help and support.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to Ana Cristina Santos.

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