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Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Sep;38 Suppl 2:S99-107. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.140.

Prevalence of overweight and obesity in European children below the age of 10.

Author information

1] Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology-BIPS, Bremen, Germany [2] Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Institute of Statistics, Bremen University, Bremen, Germany.
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology-BIPS, Bremen, Germany.
Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Paediatrics, Medical Faculty, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.
GENUD (Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development) Research Group, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain.
Research & Education Institute of Child Health, Strovolos, Cyprus.
Department of Chronic Diseases, National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia.
Institute of Food Sciences, Unit of Epidemiology & Population Genetics, National Research Council, Avellino, Italy.



There is a lack of common surveillance systems providing comparable figures and temporal trends of the prevalence of overweight (OW), obesity and related risk factors among European preschool and school children. Comparability of available data is limited in terms of sampling design, methodological approaches and quality assurance. The IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health Effects in Children and infantS) study provides one of the largest European data sets of young children based on state-of-the-art methodology.


To assess the European distribution of weight status according to different classification systems based on body mass index (BMI) in children (2.0-9.9 years). To describe the prevalence of weight categories by region, sex, age and socioeconomic position.


Between 2007 and 2010, 18,745 children from eight European countries participated in an extensive, highly standardised protocol including, among other measures, anthropometric examinations and parental reports on socio-demographic characteristics.


The combined prevalence of OW/obesity ranges from more than 40% in southern Europe to less than 10% in northern Europe. Overall, the prevalence of OW was higher in girls (21.1%) as compared with boys (18.6%). The prevalence of OW shows a negative gradient with social position, with some variation of the strength and consistency of this association across Europe. Overall, population groups with low income and/or lower education levels show the highest prevalence of obesity. The use of different reference systems to classify OW results in substantial differences in prevalence estimates and can even reverse the reported difference between boys and girls.


There is a higher prevalence of obesity in populations from southern Europe and in population groups with lower education and income levels. Our data confirm the need to develop and reinforce European public health policies to prevent early obesity and to reduce these health inequalities and regional disparities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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