Obese children may be at increased risk of becoming obese adults. To examine the relationship
between obesity in childhood and obesity in adulthood, we reviewed the epidemiologic
literature published between 1970 and July 1992. Comparison between studies was complicated
by differences in study design, definitions of obesity, and analytic methods used.
Although the correlations between anthropometric measures of obesity in childhood
and those in adulthood varied considerably among studies, the associations were consistently
About a third (26 to 41%) of obese preschool children were obese as adults, and about
half (42 to 63%) of obese school-age children were obese as adults. For all studies
and across all ages, the risk of adult obesity was at least twice as high for obese
children as for nonobese children. The risk of adult obesity was greater for children
who were at higher levels of obesity and for children who were obese at older ages.
The wide range of estimates in this literature are, in part, due to differences in
study designs, definitions of obesity, ages at which participants were measured, intervals
between measurements, and population and cultural differences.