US Pharm. 2009;34(3):11. 

Unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity contribute to deaths among youths aged 10 to 24 years in this country. Frequently interrelated, these behaviors are established during childhood and adolescence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Eighteen percent of youths with special health care needs went without health care services, and according to the National Adolescent Health Information Center the number of these youths is expected to rise from 63.3 million in 2006 to 64.1 million in 2020. The YRBSS found a negative association between physical inactivity/unhealthy weight-control behaviors and academic achievement, meaning that youths with higher grades are less likely to be physically inactive and engage in unhealthy weight-control behaviors, although these associations do not prove causation. Risk behaviors associated with two causes of death (cardiovascular disease and cancer) were found to be present during adolescence.

Obesity: Thirteen percent of youths were obese. Overall, the prevalence of obesity among youths was higher among males (16%) and Hispanic youths (20%). Comparing grades 9 through 12, prevalence was higher in 11th-grade boys (17%) and 9th-grade girls (11%). 

Weight-Loss Attempts: Weight-loss efforts were made by 45% of youths. Efforts were most prevalent among white females (62%) and 12th-grade girls (62%). Prevalence of weight-control practices was higher among white youths (46%), Hispanic youths (50%), and white female youths (62%). 

Dietary Behaviors: Nationwide, 21% of youths had eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day during the week prior to being surveyed. A higher prevalence was documented among male youths (23%), particularly white males (20%) and 9th-grade boys (25%). This behavior occurred more among black (25%) youths, especially males (27%). A higher prevalence was seen among 9th-graders (24%), particularly boys (25%). 

Regulation of Dietary Intake: During the month prior to being surveyed, 41% of youths had eaten less food, fewer calories, or low-fat foods to lose weight or keep from gaining weight. Regulation of dietary intake was more prevalent among females (53%), particularly among 12th-grade (56.4%) and white females (58.4%). Overall, prevalence was higher among 12th-graders (42%), particularly 12th-grade girls (56%), versus their counterparts. 

Diet-Control Drugs: In the month before being surveyed, 6% of youths had taken diet pills, powders, or liquids without a physician's advice to lose weight or keep from gaining weight. The use of diet pills was more prevalent among white females (8%) and 12th-grade girls (10%). The use of diet pills was more prevalent among 12th-grade girls (10%) than 12th-grade boys. 

To comment on this article, contact