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Keywords:

  • Adolescent;
  • Israel;
  • obesity;
  • gender

Summary

What is already known about this subject?
  • Obesity is rising among children and adolescents in Israel and as a global trend.
  • Obesity during adolescence correlates to morbidity in adulthood.
  • Socio-demographic and ethnic factors are risk modifiers for obesity.
What this study adds?
  • Temporal trends of obesity in adolescents in a large study with measured physical dimensions.
  • A descriptive case study of obesity trends in a country that shifted from developing to booming.
  • Elucidation of risk factors for obesity in adolescents, including socioeconomic status, geographical origin and education.
  • Exploration of gender disparities.

Background

The epidemic of obesity has been identified as a major source of morbidity, not just in developed countries but globally, in adults as well as at younger ages.

Objective

The aims of this study were to describe trends in obesity and overweight in Israeli adolescents and observe temporal changes and association by risk factors.

Methods

The research analyzed records of 2 148 342 Jewish adolescents, over a span of 44 years and included data for individual body measurements, place of residence, area of origin and education levels. Body mass index (BMI) was measured by professionals, calculated and categorized as overweight or obesity according to age- and gender-specific BMI curves established in recent years. We processed the data in multinomial logistic regression model and calculated odds ratios for various risk factors.

Results

Obesity and overweight are on the rise for male and female adolescents born from the mid-1960s onwards, and especially for men from the 1980s onwards. Risk factors for male adolescents include lower socioeconomic status, inferior education levels and Western origins (vs. Asian, African or Israeli origins). Risk modifiers for women were similar, except for African origins, which were associated with increased risk rather than decreased risk. Asian and Israeli origins were protective for both genders, and education was more strongly associated with obesity for women.

Conclusions

We recommend stronger preventive efforts directed at adolescents as a whole, and particularly vulnerable groups with lower education levels and poverty, or those with specific geographical origins. Gender disparities are evident and should be considered in these efforts and in further research.