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U.S. children continue to gain weight

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- - Children and teenagers in the United States are heavier than ever and the trend shows no signs of stopping, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Thirteen percent of children ages 6 - 11 were overweight in a 1999 national survey, compared to 11 percent in a survey done between 1988 and 1994. Among adolescents ages 12-19, 14 percent were overweight in 1999 -- an increase of 3 percent compared to the earlier survey.

Over the last few years, public health officials have become alarmed at the number of overweight children.

See the full results of the NHANES survey

"Overweight children are at risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health problems," said Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the CDC. "They're part of an epidemic of overweight and obesity that must be addressed so that they can lead healthier lives."

The surveys are part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) started conducting in the early 1960s.

The survey defined overweight as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) above the 95th percentile. BMI is a ratio of weight to height.

"It's worth noting that before 1988, the figures were basically flat for both kids and adults," according to Jeff Lancashire, a spokesman for the National Center for Health Statistics. "There was very little change over the first two decades we conducted the surveys."

Between 1963 and 1980, the percentage of children who were overweight was approximately 7 percent in the 6-11 age group and around 5 percent in the 12-to-19 category. In the NHANES study from 1988-1994, the percentage of overweight children jumped to 11 percent in both age groups. The newest data released today are "now showing a continual climb," according to Lancashire.

He added that the 1999 data are still very preliminary and need to be broken down into demographics.

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National Center for Health Statistics
American Academy of Pediatrics

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