To determine whether trends of increasing overweight and obesity reported for older children and adults are evident in Canadian preschoolers.
A sample of 3857 preschool-aged children (51.1% boys) in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, born in 1984 and measured in 1987-1989, was selected from government archival records. The sample of 4161 children (50.1% boys), born in 1997 and measured in 2000-2002, was obtained from regional health authority records. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated using heights and weights measured by nurses. Overweight and obesity prevalence was estimated according to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) methods.
Combined rates of overweight and obesity were significantly higher in preschoolers born in 1997 (25.6% IOTF and 36.0% CDC) than in 1984 (16.9% IOTF and 25.1% CDC), when levels were already high. There were some differences between sexes and classification systems.
The relatively rapid rise in overweight and obesity in children as young as 3.5 years, in little more than a decade, underscores the immediate need for monitoring, and implementation of effective interventions. Overweight and obesity in preschool children is not new, but has become increasingly prevalent, and requires population-based strategies.