American teenagers are by far - and wide - the fattest youngsters in the world, according to an alarming new study.
Our teens have higher rates of obesity than those in 14 other industrialized countries, including France and Germany.
In fact, among our 15-year-olds, 15 percent of girls and nearly 14 percent of boys were obese, and 31 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys were more modestly overweight.
But parents are somewhat to blame - for too often driving kids to school and other events when they should be walking, according to research conducted in Maryland and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Compounding the sedentary lives American kids lead is their diet. They are more likely than those in other countries to wolf down fast foods, snacks and sugary sodas, according to Mary Overpeck of the Maryland-based Maternal and Child Health Bureau, who co-authored the study.
The findings, published in this month's issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, are based on school questionnaires given to nearly 30,000 youngsters in 15 countries in 1997 and 1998.
The other countries surveyed were Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.
"The rest of the world may be catching up - but we're still in first place in a race that, unfortunately we shouldn't want to be winning," said Dr. David Ludwig of the Children's Hospital in Boston.
The World Health Organization said recently that obesity is no longer mostly an American problem.
It's an increasing concern in Europe and other developed nations because more and more people are dropping their traditional diets and adopting lazier lifestyles, the organization said.
In the study, Lithuania had the lowest obesity rates.
Among Lithuanian 15-year-olds, just 2 percent of girls and 0.8 percent of boys were obese, and only 8 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys were overweight.
The probable reason: Lithuania has fewer fast-food restaurants, and kids there have less money to buy snacks and fast food.
In countries such as Ireland, Portugal and Sweden, 13-year-old girls were more likely than 15-year-old girls to be obese.
The study is one of many that point to trouble for our children.
The Post reported yesterday on another study, one that said that nearly a third of American kids ages 4 to 19 eat fast food every day - which adds about six extra pounds per child per year and increases the risk of obesity.
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