Background: Prevalence of obesity is the result of preceding incidence of newly developed obesity and persistence of obesity. We investigated whether increasing incidence and/or persistence during childhood drove the prevalence of childhood obesity during the emerging epidemic. Methods: Height and weight were measured at ages 7 and 13 years in 192,992 Danish school children born 1930-1969. Trends in the incidence (proportion obese at 13 years among those not obese at 7 years) and persistence (proportion obese at 13 years among those obese at 7 years) across birth cohort periods (1930-41 with low stable prevalence of obesity, 1942-51 with increasing prevalence, 1952-69 with the higher, but stable prevalence) were investigated. Logistic regression was used to examine the associations between BMI at 7 years as a continuous trait, allowing interactions with the birth cohorts, and occurrence of obesity at 13 years. Results: The prevalence of obesity was similar at 7 and 13 years and increased across birth cohorts in boys from around 0.1% to 0.5% and in girls from around 0.3% to 0.7%. The incidence of obesity between ages 7 and 13 years increased from 0.15% to 0.35% in boys and from 0.20% to 0.44% in girls. The persistence increased from 28.6% to 41.4% in boys and from 16.4% to 31.0% in girls. Despite a decrease over time, the remission of obesity occurred in > 60% of obese children in the last birth cohort. However, the odds ratios of obesity at age 13 years in relation to the full range of BMI at 7 years remained unchanged across the birth cohort periods. Conclusions/Significance: The development of the obesity epidemic in children was due to an increase in both incidence and persistence of obesity. Contrary to prevailing expectations, a large, although declining, proportion of children obese at an early age underwent remission during childhood. © 2012 Andersen et al.
Andersen, L. G., Baker, J. L., & Sørensen, T. I. A. (2012). Contributions of incidence and persistence to the prevalence of childhood obesity during the emerging epidemic in Denmark. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042521