It's So Hard To Lose Weight That Many Children Will Still Be Obese By 35 Years Old

Children may struggle to lose weight as they get older, increasing their likeliness of being obese adults. PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

A growing number of American children are considered obese, and a new study from Harvard has projected that more than half of U.S. children will likely be obese by the time they are 35.

A study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine used data from five previous studies on U.S. population body mass indexes to create a computer model projection of what today's obese children will look like in adulthood. Results showed that 57 percent of American children will be obese by 35, if the current trend remains.

The results also put into perspective just how many Americans may be obese in the near future. While the current obesity rate among 35-year-olds is 40 percent, this projection predicts that it could grow to 57 percent, Reuters reported.

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"It's definitely a shocking and sobering number," said lead study author Zachary Ward, an analyst at the Harvard TH Chan School of Medicine, The Guardian reported. "But if you look at trends in weight gain over the past 40 years, it's not too surprising we're heading in this direction."

In the study, obesity was defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is a measure of your total body fat, based on your height, weight, and gender.

The results highlight just how important it is to tackle weight problems when we are young, because as we age it becomes less and less likely that children will lose significant amounts of weight, Reuters reported. For example, the study revealed that a severely obese 2-year-old only has a one in five chance of not being obese at 35, but a severely obese 5-year-old only has a one in 10 chance of not being obese at 35.

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In addition, the data showed that obese children may have an even harder time dropping the pounds than individuals who gain weight in young adulthood. For example, an overweight 2-year-old is more likely to be obese at 35 years old than an overweight 19-year-old.

There are a number of reasons why it becomes harder to lose weight as you age, such as declining hormone levels and muscle mass, but this does not happen until much later in life, The New York Times reported. As of now, it's not clear why these children will not lose weight as they age.