Is your teen a fatty?
You may want to reign-in your teen's bulging waistline. According to research, it's only going to get worse.
In a nationally representative study of American youth, researchers found that nearly one in 12 teenagers became severely obese as they entered adulthood - landing them some 100 pounds above their ideal weight.

And of those who were obese to begin with, about half the girls and more than a third of the boys grew into the larger-size category, raising their odds of developing heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.

"People with severe obesity suffer from potentially life-threatening problems," said Penny Gordon-Larsen, a nutrition scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the research.

"The prevention efforts that we've had in the past maybe have not been as successful as we would have liked them to be," she added. "We really need to prevent kids from becoming obese teenagers, and then prevent those teenagers from becoming severely obese adults."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical expenses related to overweight and obesity eat up about 9% of total U.S. medical expenditures, amounting to $147 billion in 2008.

In the meantime, the national waistline is only getting larger. Several states now have obesity rates of more than 30%, with Mississippi leading the pack at 34.4% of residents. Colorado, with the leanest population in the nation, still has an obesity rate of 18.6%.

Gordon-Larsen said weight-loss drugs - even combined with diet and lifestyle changes - are not very effective and have side effects. Surgery, such as gastric bypass or banding, lets people shed more pounds, but comes with a big price tag and potential complications.

"Prevention is easier, because obesity is hard to treat," Gordon-Larsen said in a telephone interview.

The study tapped into data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which has followed thousands of kids from middle schools and high schools since the mid-1990s. It is the first to track how obese teenagers' weight changes as they grow up.

Check the BMI

At the outset, 1% of the youngsters were severely obese, defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or more. For an average adult, that can easily mean 100 or more superfluous pounds.

BMI, a means of estimating body fat, is calculated by dividing weight in kilos by height in meters squared. Overweight is generally defined as a BMI between 25 and 30, obesity between 30 and 40.

Over 13 years, 8% of the now adults landed in the severe obesity category - and the heavier they were to begin with, the higher their chances of doing so, not surprisingly.

Do you encourage your teen to have a healthy diet?

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