After decades of epidemic, childhood obesity rates show first dip

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2012 - Obesity rates among low-income, pre-school aged children may finally be falling, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control wrote in a report released yesterday.

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In 2003, 15.21 percent of American children were obese; in 2010, that number fell to 14.94 percent, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“To our knowledge, this is the first national study to show that the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity among young U.S. children may have begun to decline," the authors wrote. "The results of this study indicate modest recent progress of obesity prevention among young children.”

Since 1980, the prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled, according to the CDC. Approximately 17 percent of American children are obese, and the obesity rates for Hispanic boys and non-Hispanic black girls are even higher. Obesity hits low-income families especially hard - one in seven low-income preschool-aged children are obese.

Childhood obesity has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and cancer.

And though it appears that pushes for increased awareness of childhood obesity are paying off, the report was accompanied by a stern warning from Dr. David S. Ludwig, Director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital. In an editorial, Ludwig accused the food stamp program, or SNAP, of not attending to the nutritional needs of the nation's neediest children.

“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,” he wrote.


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