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Other Countries' Kids At Risk

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The incidence of teens who are overweight is higher in the USA than in 14 other countries, a study reported Monday.

But several other nations, including Ireland, Greece, Finland and Portugal, also have a high percentage of heavy teens. Lithuania has the lowest incidence, according to the research published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Kids and teens who weigh too much are at a greater risk of weighing too much as adults, are more likely to have low self-esteem and have a greater chance of developing health problems, such as diabetes.

For the latest study, researchers in Denmark looked at height and weight records for 29,000 children ages 13 and 15. American teens lead the world in both age groups in terms of carrying too much weight. For instance, researchers found that 28% of 15-year-old boys and 31% of girls in the USA are either overweight or at risk of becoming so.

The respective figures for overweight 15-year-olds in other nations:

* Greece, 29% of boys; 16% of girls.

* Ireland, 19%; 14%.

* Finland, 16%; 14.5%.

* Portugal, 14%; 21%.

* France, 10%; 13%.

* Lithuania, 5%; 8%.

''From other research, we know the more hours a week that children look at the telly, the higher the risk of obesity,'' says lead author Inge Lissau, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Public Health in Copenhagen, Denmark. ''And we know that high-fat foods and sweetened drinks increase the risk.''

There is no sign of a decline in this trend toward more overweight children, says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

''In fact, the age at which kids become obese is getting younger in most high- and middle-income countries,'' Popkin says.

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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