Introduction: Childhood obesity is a global health problem. Yet, there is limited information on Chinese children. Our aim was to examine the prevalence of overweight/obesity in children of South China, and to describe its characteristics.
Materials & Methods: 2,144 children (51.96% boys) aged 7-15 years were analyzed. Weight and height were measured, and body mass index was calculated. International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and Working Group on Obesity in China (WGOC) criteria were used to define overweight and obesity. Basic and family information were collected. Characteristics (e.g. household income, parental occupation, parental education, birth weight, pubertal status) of children in normal weight, overweight and obese groups were compared using Wilcoxon signed rank tests and chi-square tests.
Results: Prevalence of overweight (10.68%, 12.92%) and obesity (6.53%, 3.17%) were detected according to WGOC and IOTF, respectively. The obesity prevalence in boys was significantly higher than that in girls (p<0.05). The prevalence of overweight was the highest at 10-12 years in both genders. For obesity, boys aged 7-9 years and girls aged 10-12 years had the highest prevalence. Birth weight (p<0.01), paternal occupation (p<0.05) and maternal education level (p<0.05) in both genders and pubertal status only in girls (p<0.05) were significantly different among normal weight, overweight and obese groups, according IOTF criteria.
Conclusions: To date, in South China, the obesity issue has been more serious, especially in early age groups, and it appears to be more relevant for boys. Early life and parental characteristics may be related to overweight/obesity among children and adolescents.