“Children will just grow out of their excess weight, right?”

At our team’s case conference last week, a couple clinicians recalled instances when referring MDs had told our families that their children would just ‘grow out’ of their obesity. Anecdotally, we know this happens infrequently, but is there evidence to support this belief?

After reviewing a few papers on this topic, a couple key take-aways:

1. Only ~15% of children who are ‘overweight or obese’ ever return to a healthy weight (spontaneously).

2. A ‘return to a healthy weight’ happens much more often in:

overweight (vs obese children)

younger (vs older children)

Caucasian (vs non-Caucasian children)

Overall, among the kids we see clinically (>90% in the obese category), a ‘return to a healthy weight’ does not happen very often. And in some sub-groups, like those listed above, it’s unlikely to happen at all.

Of course, this is just the weight-related story — and we all know there’s much more to health than just weight. But if you hear your colleagues or families make this claim in the future, you know that research tells a different story.