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To report trends in underweight, overweight and obesity in 12–15-year-old adolescents and examine changes in dieting behaviour, which have been less well documented.
Comparison of two independent representative cross-sectional surveys.
Weight and height were objectively measured in 1324 boys and 1160 girls in 1996 and 1274 boys and 1374 girls in 2007. Participants reported whether they were following any particular diet including a self-proposed or prescribed weight-reduction diet.
Overweight and obesity increased in girls from 15 % to 23 % and 2 % to 6 %, respectively. Increases were more modest in boys with overweight increasing from 13 % to 18 % and obesity from 3 % to 6 %. The proportion of underweight adolescents decreased from 9 % to 6 % in girls and 8 % to 5 % in boys. Evidence of social disparity was observed in girls from a manual socio-economic background, with overweight/obesity prevalence rates increasing from 21 % to 36 % compared with 15 % to 26 % in girls from a non-manual background. Despite these trends fewer adolescents, in particular girls, reported following weight-reduction diets (14 % of overweight/obese girls in 2007 v. 21 % in 1996; 8 % of boys in 2007 v. 13 % in 1996). Of these girls, the proportion from a manual background following weight-reduction diets decreased from 25 % to 11 %.
Overweight and obesity are continuing to increase in adolescents despite government and media awareness strategies. There also appears to be reduced dieting behaviour, despite increasing body weight, particularly in girls from manual socio-economic backgrounds.
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