Poor eating and activity habits, not genetics, are the underlying causes for most cases of adolescent obesity, new research suggests.
The finding stems from an analysis involving more than 1,000 Michigan sixth-grade students who participated in the Project Healthy Schools program, which is in place in 13 middle schools across the state.
"For the extremely overweight child, genetic screening may be a consideration," study senior author Dr. Kim A. Eagle, a cardiologist and a director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor, said in a center news release.
"For the rest, increasing physical activity, reducing recreational screen time and improving the nutritional value of school lunches offers great promise to begin a reversal of current childhood obesity trends."
The study findings were published in a recent issue of the American Heart Journal.
The authors noted that, in 1980, just 6.5 percent of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 years were considered obese, but that percentage rose to nearly 20 percent by 2008.
The recent study found that 15 percent of the participants were obese. And almost all had poor eating habits.
Nearly one-third of all the students said they drank a soda the day before, while fewer than half said they could recall having eaten two portions of fruits and vegetables in the same time frame.
And while 34 percent of non-obese kids consumed lunches provided by their school, that figure rose to 45 percent among obese students.