Report says more Missouri youths overweight

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Almost one-quarter of Missourians ages 9 through 18 are overweight, according to a state study released Monday.

The report by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services showed that 22.7 percent of youths surveyed during the 2000-2001 school year were overweight. That percentage is up from 18.6 percent in 1999-2000.

A study released last year by the health department also found that 36 percent of all Missourians are overweight or obese, a 78 percent increase in the number of overweight people since 1987.

The latest report said that on the average, Missouri youths do not consume the number of servings from the meat, breads and cereals, fruit, and vegetable food groups recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The goal of the assessment is to determine the eating habits of Missouri children and the possible associations of dietary factors with the risks of diseases such as heart attack, diabetes and stroke," said Gretchen Wartman, director of the Division of Nutritional Health and Services.

She said the information will help the state "provide better guidance to schools and communities on improving nutrition education supporting healthy lifestyles."

The report was based on the diets of 14,194 youths who attended schools participating in the Missouri School-Age Children's Health Services Program during the 2000-2001 school year.

Height and weight measurements were taken to calculate each student's body mass index, which was then used to determine the nutritional status of the student populations.

At least one state lawmaker is concerned about the issue.

Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City, filed bills for the upcoming legislative session designed to fight obesity.

The first would create a state commission to study obesity, a measure that cleared the Senate last year but failed to come to a final vote in the House. The second measure proposed by Bland would require insurance companies to reimburse overweight people for the cost of counseling.

The state report also found that nutritionally, 56 percent of females and 61 percent of male students ages 11 to 14 met the federally recommended number of servings of milk per day. The percentages were the lowest in the bread and cereal group, where only 3 percent of male and female students ages 11-14 met the recommended number of servings.

The highest percentages of female and male students ages 15-18 meeting the recommended number of daily servings also was found in the milk group. Still, just two out of five females actually met the recommended amount.

Students ages 15-18 also fared the worst in the bread and cereal group. Both males and females averaged 6 percent of the recommended daily amount.

Less than 30 percent of both age groups met the recommended number of daily servings in the meats and vegetables groups and less than 45 percent met the standards in the fruit group.

The greatest number of servings that both age groups consumed was from the sweets and fats groups, the report said.


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