Child Height and the Risk of Young-Adult Obesity

Steven D. Stovitz, Peter J. Hannan, Leslie A. Lytle, Ellen W. Demerath, Mark A. Pereira, John H. Himes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Childhood obesity is a major risk factor for adult obesity, and obese children tend to be taller than their normal-weight peers. Purpose: The aim of this study is to evaluate whether childhood height influences the probability that normal or overweight children become overweight young adults. Methods: The study involved a multicenter prospective cohort of subjects assessed in both third grade and 12th grade, n=2802. Main exposures were CDC childhood BMI categories and height quartiles from third-grade measurements. Main outcome measure was CDC adult BMI categories from 12th-grade measurements. Associations between childhood height quartiles, childhood BMI categories, and adult BMI categories were assessed using chi-square tests and logistic regression models. Results: Overall, 79% of overweight children remained overweight as young adults. Among children who were overweight or obese, the probability of becoming an overweight or obese young adult was 85% for children in the top quartile of height and 67% for children in the bottom quartile of height (p=0.007). Among children who were normal weight, the probability of becoming an overweight or obese young adult was 25% for children in the top height quartile versus 17% for children in the bottom height quartile (p=0.003). Conclusions: When clinicians classify children by BMI categories and counsel about the risk for future obesity, they should recognize that greater height may be a marker for increased risk of adult overweight and obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-77
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a career research training grant (for SDS) from the NIH/NCRR (5K12-RR023247-04), funds from the NCI Centers for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (U54CA116849), and the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center. The opinions or assertions contained herein are of the authors and are not considered as reflecting the views of the NIH.


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