gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

Trends and predictors of overweight and obesity in German children in the decade following reunification: population based series of cross sectional studies

Meeting Abstract

  • Christian Apfelbacher - Department of Clinical Social Medicine, Heidelberg
  • John Cairns - London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London
  • Adrian Loerbroks - Institute of Psychology, Heidelberg
  • Thomas Bruckner - Department of Clinical Social Medicine, Heidelberg
  • Matthias Möhrenschlager - Department of Dermatology and Allergy Biederstein, Munich
  • Heidrun Behrendt - Centre for Allergy and the Environment, Munich
  • Johannes Ring - Department of Dermatology and Allergy Biederstein, Munich
  • Ursula Krämer - Institu für umweltmedizinische Forschung at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds014

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Apfelbacher et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Introduction/Background: Epidemiologic studies have yielded conflicting results with respect to predictive factors of childhood obesity. Monitoring trends is important to inform public health policy. It is the aim of this study to analyse predictive factors and time trends in overweight and obesity from 1991 to 2000 in German children, and to test the hypothesis of a trend difference between East and West.

Material and methods: 35434 five to seven year-old children participated in cross-sectional studies between 1991 and 2000 in several rural and urban areas in East and West Germany. Weight and height were measured and BMI (body mass index) was calculated. International cut-off points were used to classify overweight and obesity. Predictive modelling was performed to analyse independently associated factors. Trend analyses for East and West were performed and a difference in trends was tested using logistic regression.

Results: Female sex, other than German nationality, smoking in the living place and increasing birth weight were found to increase the odds of overweight and obesity, while increasing educational level, living space >75m² and breastfeeding for more than three months were inversely associated, suggesting protective effects. From 1991 to 2000, the prevalence of overweight increased from 10,0% to 17,5% in the East and from 14,8% to 22,2% in the West. The prevalence of obesity increased from 2,1% to 5,7% in the East and from 3,6% to 7,6% in the West. There was no evidence for a trend difference between East and West.

Discussion/Conclusions: The transition process after Germany’s reunification has obviously resulted in a rapid adoption of a Western lifestyle in the East, as witnessed by increasing prevalences of overweight and obesity. The findings add to the evidence informing public health action, both through health promotion strategies (e.g. promoting breastfeeding) and wider societal change management (e.g. addressing children from migrant families).