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May 1, 2005 - Carbohydrate Nutrition News

Diet, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevalence in Youth from 34 Countries

Comparison of Overweight and Obesity Prevalence in School-Aged Youth from 34 Countries and Their Relationship with Physical Activty and Dietary Patterns


I. Janseen, PT. Katzmarzyk, WF. Boyce, C. Vereecken, C. Mulvihill, C. Roberts, C. Currie, W. Pickett and The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Obesity Working Group. 
Obesity Reviews, May 2005;6(2):123-132.

The purpose of this systematic review was to present and compare recent estimates of the prevalence of overweight and obesity in school-aged youth from 34 countries and to examine associations between overweight and selected dietary and physical activity patterns. 

Data consisted of a cross-sectional survey of 137,593 youth (10-16 years) from the 34 (primarily European) participating countries of the 2001-2002 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was determined based on self-reported height and weight and the internatioal child body mass index standards. Logistic regression was employed to examine associations between overweight status with selected dietary and physical activity patterns. The two countries with the highest prevalence of overweight (pre-obese + obese) and obese youth were Malta (25.4% and 7.9%) and the United States (25.1% and 6.8%) while the two countries with the lowest prevalence were Lituania (5.1% and 0.4%) and Latvia (5.9% and 0.5%). Overweight and obesity prevalence was particularly high in countries located in North America, Great Britain, and south-western Europe. Within most countries, physical activit levels were lower and television viewing times were higher in overweight compared to normal weight youth. In 91% of the countries examined, the frequency of sweets intake was lower in overweight than normal weight youth. Overweight status was not associated with the intake of fruits, vegetables, and soft drinks or time spent on the computer. 

In conclusion, the adolescent obesity epidemic is a global issue. Increasing physical activity participation and decreasing television viewing should be the focus of strategies aimed at preventing and treating overweight and obesity in youth. 

Link to abstract