US childhood obesity dips for first time in decades

December 27, 2012 by Mira Oberman

Obesity rates among small children may finally be on the decline after more than tripling in the United States the past 30 years, a study out Wednesday indicated.

The study found that rates peaked in 2004 and then declined slightly among low-income aged two to four who receive benefits from a federal food stamp program called SNAP.

"To our knowledge, this is the first national study to show that the and extreme obesity among young US children may have begun to decline," wrote lead author Liping Pan of the (CDC).

"The results of this study indicate modest recent progress of obesity prevention among young children. These findings may have important health implications because of the lifelong health risks of obesity and extreme obesity in early childhood."

Obesity is most prevalent among minority and low-income families and has been associated with a range of health problems and premature death.

The researchers analyzed data from a surveillance system which monitors almost half of the children eligible for federally funded and nutrition programs.

They were able to access height and weight data from 27.5 million children aged two to four in the 30 states which consistently reported their data.

In 1998, obesity levels were at 13.05 percent of the children. This rose to a peak of 15.36 percent in 2004 before declining to 14.94 percent in 2010.

Extreme obesity rates rose from 1.75 percent in 1998 to a peak of 2.22 percent in 2003 before slipping down to 2.07 percent in 2010, the study published in the found.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. David Ludwig said the declines seen are not enough, and he urged an overhaul of the federal food stamp program (SNAP) to help low-income families tackle obesity by eliminating junk food and adding more fruit and vegetables to their diet.

"SNAP is essential for hunger prevention in the United States, but its exclusive focus on food quantity contributes to malnutrition and obesity, and is misaligned with the goal of helping beneficiaries lead healthier lives," wrote Ludwig, who works in an center at Boston Children's Hospital.

While other federal food programs, like the free meals offered in schools, have been revised to focus on healthful eating, SNAP has no regulations to influence the quality of food purchased.

Ludwig noted that it pays for an estimated $4 billion in soft drinks per year, which adds up to about 20 million servings of soda a day.

"The public pays for sugary drinks, candy, and other junk foods included in SNAP benefits twice: once at the time of purchase, and later for the treatment of diet-induced disease through Medicaid and Medicare," he wrote.

"The nation's $75 billion investment in SNAP could provide a major opportunity to reduce the burden of diet-related disease among low-income children and families if policies that promote nutritional quality are instituted."

More than a third of US children were overweight in 2008, the CDC found in a previous study.

Childhood jumped from seven percent of children aged six to 11 in 1980 to 20 percent in 2008. The number of obese teens aged 12 to 19 jumped from five percent to 18 percent over the same period.

Explore further: Obesity may be declining among preschool-aged children living in low-income families

Related Stories

Obesity may be declining among preschool-aged children living in low-income families

December 25, 2012
"Obesity and extreme obesity in childhood, which are more prevalent among minority and low-income families, have been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors, increased health care costs, and premature death. Obesity ...

Federal food program pays $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages

September 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—The federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) pays at least $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages purchased in grocery stores alone, according to a study by the Yale ...

White House's Childhood Obesity Task Force must focus on providing treatment for minority children

September 8, 2011
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, created by the president as part of the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign, aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation, returning the country to a ...

Stronger social safety net leads to decrease in stress, childhood obesity

July 21, 2011
Social safety net programs that reduce psychosocial stressors for low-income families also ultimately lead to a reduction in childhood obesity, according to research by a University of Illinois economist who studies the efficacy ...

New study says soft drink consumption not the major contributor to childhood obesity

June 14, 2012
Most children and youth who consume soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, such as fruit punch and lemonade, are not at any higher risk for obesity than their peers who drink healthy beverages, says a new study published ...

Could the childhood obesity 'epidemic' be ebbing?

April 24, 2012
(HealthDay) -- After two decades of steadily increasing rates of childhood obesity, at least one state may finally be turning things around.

Recommended for you

PFASs, chemicals commonly found in environment, may interfere with body weight regulation

February 13, 2018
A class of chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products was linked with greater weight gain after dieting, particularly among women, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The chemicals—perfluoroalkyl ...

Study shows benefits of exercise can outweigh health effects of severe obesity

February 12, 2018
Can you be fit and healthy even if you're overweight? That's the question researchers at York University's Faculty of Health set out to answer in a new study that shows physical activity may be equally and perhaps even more ...

Obesity drives US health care costs up by 29 percent, varies by state

February 7, 2018
The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the U.S., but there has been little information about the economic impact of this trend for individual states.

Why diets backfire: A year or more after weight loss, the desire to eat grows stronger

February 2, 2018
Losing weight is, for most people, the easy part. The bigger challenge is trying to keep it off for more than a year.

Scientists identify weight loss ripple effect

February 1, 2018
People who make an effort to lose weight aren't just helping themselves, they may be helping others too.

To improve self-control, call weight loss what it is: Difficult

January 29, 2018
To reach your New Year's fitness goals, a bit of reverse psychology might be in order. Telling people that weight loss is extremely challenging—rather than imparting a "You can do it!" mantra—motivated them to shed more ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.