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Acta Paediatrica - 2023 - Aarestrup - Trends in childhood body mass index between 1936 and 2011 showed that underweight.pdf (4.25 MB)

Trends in childhood body mass index between 1936 and 2011 showed that underweight remained more common than obesity among 398 970 Danish school children

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posted on 2023-10-16, 13:01 authored by J Aarestrup, DC Pedersen, LG Bjerregaard, BW Jensen, KB Leth-Møller, RK Jacobsen, Will JohnsonWill Johnson, JL Baker

Aim: To examine trends in all body mass index (BMI) groups in children from 1936 to 2011.

Methods: We included 197 694 girls and 201 276 boys from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, born between 1930 and 1996, with longitudinal weight and height measurements (6–14 years). Using International Obesity Task Force criteria, BMI was classified as underweight, normal-weight, overweight and obesity. Sex- and age-specific prevalences were calculated.

Results: From the 1930s, the prevalence of underweight was stable until a small increase occurred from 1950 to 1970s, and thereafter it declined into the early 2000s. Using 7-year-olds as an example, underweight changed from 10% to 7% in girls and from 9% to 6% in boys during the study period. The prevalence of overweight plateaued from 1950 to 1970s and then steeply increased from 1970s onwards and in 1990–2000s 15% girls and 11% boys at 7 years had overweight. The prevalence of obesity particularly increased from 1980s onwards and in 1990–2000s 5% girls and 4% boys at 7 years had obesity. These trends slightly differed by age.

Conclusion: Among Danish schoolchildren, the prevalence of underweight was greater than overweight until the 1980s and greater than obesity throughout the period. Thus, monitoring the prevalence of childhood underweight remains an important public health issue.


NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre

Novo Nordisk Foundation. Grant Number: NNF21OC0067346



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Acta Paediatrica: Nurturing the Child




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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/) License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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Dr Will Johnson. Deposit date: 19 September 2023

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