The Grade School 15

15 poundsThe freshman 15 is weight gain most young adults don’t want or need, but there’s another time surprising time some kids can gain weight without cramming all night eating pizza: it’s between first and third grade.

Researchers followed a diverse group of nearly 6000 children for 9 years and found that the early school years may be a critical time for increases in the body mass index (BMI).

At the beginning of the study, 40% of the kindergarteners had BMIs greater than or equal to 75% (a BMI over 85% is considered overweight). The children were measured through eighth grade, and the largest increases in their BMI were between first and third grade.

1 in 3 children in the US are currently overweight or obese. This raises their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

A child with a BMI for age and gender over the 95th% is considered obsess.

The rate of obesity for 2-5 year olds was 10%

The rate of obesity for 6-11 year olds was 19%.

This rate is stable and sometimes decreases among adolescents 12 to 19 years old.

The study, published in Pediatrics, measured the children but they did not track their physical activity or calorie intake. Decreased physical activity sitting in class, shortened recess and limited physical education sessions affect calories burned. Calorie-dense processed and packaged food adds calories. Screen time takes away from play time. Piles of homework for young students also take time away from play.

To avoid the grade school 15, shut off the screens and let children play. Check how many hours the teacher says homework should take and provide feedback. Look at school lunch food and drinks and guide your child to make healthy choices. If the menu is high fat burgers and pizza, pack lunch. Check out Brown Bag Lunch ideas here.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at,, and She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit
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