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Obesity rates for U.S. toddlers found to plummet

Feb. 25, 2014
Courtesy of JAMA
and World Science staff

Obes­ity rates for U.S. chil­dren ages 2 to 5 dropped by al­most 40 per­cent since the mid­dle of the last dec­ade, al­though the rates for oth­er age groups have re­mained sta­ble, re­search­ers said Feb. 25.

Fed­er­al re­search­ers are detailing the find­ings in the Feb. 26 is­sue of the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­socia­t­ion.

The find­ings for young children are “ex­cit­ing,” said Cyn­thia L. Og­den, a re­search­er for the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in Hy­atts­ville, Md., and the lead au­thor of the re­port.

Sci­en­tists said the re­sults in­di­cat­ed that obes­ity-prevention pro­grams tar­geted at young chil­dren might be start­ing to bear fruit. Sev­er­al re­cent stud­ies have found that obes­ity be­gins at very young ages.

How­ev­er, the sci­en­tists cau­tioned that an­ti-obes­ity ef­forts need to con­tin­ue, and that the rea­sons for the de­cline among 2-to-5-year olds re­main un­cer­tain. This drop was from 13.9 per­cent to 8.4 per­cent.

“Over­all, there have been no sig­nif­i­cant changes in obes­ity prev­a­lence in youth or adults be­tween 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obes­ity prev­a­lence re­mains high and thus it is im­por­tant to con­tin­ue surveil­lance,” they wrote in the re­port.

The most re­cent da­ta was col­lect­ed for 2011 and 2012.

Og­den and col­leagues from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Hy­atts­ville, M.D., ex­am­ined trends for child­hood and adult obes­ity among 9,120 peo­ple with meas­ured weights and heights (or re­cum­bent length) in the na­t­ionally “rep­re­sent­a­tive” Na­t­ional Health and Nu­tri­tion Ex­amina­t­ion Sur­vey.

The prev­a­lence of high weight for height or “re­cum­bent length,” a stand­ard meas­ure of weight among in­fants and tod­dlers from birth to age 2 years, was 8.1 per­cent in 2011-2012, with a dif­fer­ence be­tween boys (5 per­cent) and girls (11.4 per­cent). 

For youth (2- to 19-years of age), 31.8 per­cent were ei­ther over­weight or obese, and 16.9 per­cent were obese. Among adults, more than two-thirds (68.5 per­cent) were ei­ther over­weight or obese, 34.9 per­cent were obese (body mass in­dex 30 or greater), and 6.4 per­cent were ex­tremely obese (body mass in­dex of 40 or greater).


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Obesity rates for U.S. children ages 2 to 5 dropped by almost 40 percent since the middle of the last decade, although the rates for other age groups have remained stable, researchers said Tuesday. Federal researchers announced the findings in the Feb. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings are “exciting,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hyattsville, Md., and the lead author of the report. Scientists said the results indicated that obesity-prevention programs targeted at young children might be starting to bear fruit. Several recent studies have found that obesity begins at very young ages. However, the scientists cautioned that anti-obesity efforts need to continue, and that the reasons for the decline among 2-to-5-year olds remain uncertain. “Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance,” they wrote in the report. The most recent data was collected for 2011 and 2012. Ogden and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, M.D., examined trends for childhood and adult obesity among 9,120 people with measured weights and heights (or recumbent length) in the nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The prevalence of high weight for height or “recumbent length,” a standard measure of weight among infants and toddlers from birth to age 2 years, was 8.1 percent in 2011-2012, with a difference between boys (5 percent) and girls (11.4 percent). For youth (2- to 19-years of age), 31.8 percent were either overweight or obese, and 16.9 percent were obese. Among adults, more than two-thirds (68.5 percent) were either overweight or obese, 34.9 percent were obese (body mass index 30 or greater), and 6.4 percent were extremely obese (body mass index of 40 or greater).