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Obesity among young children declines slightly
December 26th, 2012
03:26 PM ET

Obesity among young children declines slightly

The number of young children who are obese and extremely obese is going down, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In what researchers say is the first national study to show that the prevalence of obesity among young children may have begun to decline, scientists analyzed data from more than 27 million children from low-income families between the ages of 2 and 4 in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

"The results of this study indicate modest recent progress of obesity prevention among young children," according to the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 

It's hard to believe, but more than one in 10 toddlers in this country are obese, according to this report. 

In 1998, 13% of 2-, 3- and 4-year-old children were obese and 1.75% were extremely obese, according to the new report.  In the following years, those statistics went up.  Obesity and extreme obesity rates peaked in 2003, according the data, says Heidi Blanck, Ph.D., one of the study authors and the Chief of the Obesity Prevention and Control Branch in the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.  In that year, 15.21% of 2- and 4-year-olds were obese and 2.22% were extremely obese.

But in 2010, the obesity rates dropped modestly to just less than 15% (14.94%) and extreme obesity dropped a little too, down to 2.07%.

"We are cautiously optimistic that the number of obese and extremely obese children is going down," says Blanck.

Health experts determine if an adult is obese by calculating the height/weight ratio called the body mass index (BMI).  In adults, someone with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Determining if a child is obese is a little more complicated.  If a child's BMI puts him at more than the 95th percentile for age and sex, he is considered obese.  If a child is at 120% or more of the 95th percentile, she is considered to be extremely obese.  Or, as Blanck explains it:  A 3-year-old boy who is of average height (37 and 2/3 inches) and weighs 37 pounds would be considered obese.  If that same boy weighs 44 pounds or more, he would be considered to be extremely obese.

Blanck and her colleagues are cautiously optimistic about their findings because when children are obese, it's really putting them on a path for poor health.  Childhood obesity and extreme obesity are more prevalent among minority and low-income families.

While the prevalence of childhood obesity still remains much too high, Blanks says it's important that the "upward trends have turned around" because previous research has shown that childhood obesity tracks into adolescent obesity.  And, depending on which study you look at, 65% to 80% of adolescents who are obese go on to be obese adults. "This really puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers."

This new report doesn't specifically indicate what has contributed to this slight decline in obesity rates,  but Blanck believes an increasing awareness about childhood obesity among parents, health professionals and communities all plays a role.  She also believes that an increase in breastfeeding among low-income mother may also have contributed.  A 2011 report from the CDC says breastfeeding for nine months reduces a baby's odds of becoming overweight by more than 30%.

Since this new CDC study is focusing on 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds who are obese and extremely obese, Blanck suggests that it's important for parents to be aware of what their child consumes in childcare. According to the CDC, 60% of U.S. preschool aged-children spend at least 30 hours per week in child care.

While health officials and schools implemented more mandates for providing healthier food in schools a decade ago, that wasn't the case in childcare settings. But Blanck says during the past five years, she's seen more childcare facilities increase activity opportunities and providing more water, less sugary drinks, all things that can help prevent a child from gaining weight.

Parents can encourage their children to have water as their first drink of choice (as opposed to soda, juice or other sugary drinks).  They can also ask for better food and drink choices in childcare settings.  Blanck points to part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, which provides tips and support for child care providers, to (in the words of the First Lady) "change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition," and therefore help reduce the number of obese children in this country.


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soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. james nance

    I'm surprised that the obama's haven't taken credit for this, or maybe its Bush's fault, oh well, I don't know, but, if michelle obumba wasn't in hawaii spending the Taxpayer Millions, she might just make a statement that she is indeed the catalyst for this weight loss and at the same time probably dressing out at around 200 lbs herself, lol, lol

    December 26, 2012 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Grammar Nazi

      I'm surprised that the Obamas haven't taken credit for this – or maybe it's Bush's fault. Oh well, I don't know. But, if Michelle Obama wasn't in the Hawaii spending the taxpayers' millions, she might just make a statement that she is indeed the catalyst for this weight loss meanwhile, she herself, weighing in at around 200 lbs. Lol. Lol. (shoots self)

      December 26, 2012 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • Dav

      "the Hawaii"? Surely you have nothing to say about Grammar, so the only reasonable thing to take from your name is the second part. I'm sure that part will apply perfectly.

      December 29, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • GaryB

      I don't know how much the first lady shining a light on the childhood obesity problem has helped, but it certainly beats doing nothing (which is what the House Republicans seem to excel at). BTW, what little is left of the president's family lives in Hawaii. Should he not spend a couple days with his family and high school friends at Christmas just because they happen to live in a nicer state than Texas? Are you really going to hold that against him?

      December 28, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      Michelle Obama is not spending any taxpayer money on her vacation. She is not paid for the work she does for the health of children. Happy New Year!

      December 28, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    The small drop in the obesity rate is not enough. The Partnership for a Healthier America has a contest for the best idea to help reduce childhood obesity. Anyone can vote. Go to their Facebook page or cut and paste this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Partnership-for-a-Healthier-America/284607191574193?sk=app_286423371468352 .
    All the ideas are good, but only one directly addresses the link between sugary drinks and obesity (the Define Bottle).

    December 26, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John1Galt

      Agreed. But, let's hope that it's the start of obesity, fast food and sugar being tossed into the category of cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Years ago everyone smoked but education has made people associate cigarettes with trashiness. Hopefully, it'll be the same with obesity in time. Education is superior to regulation.

      December 29, 2012 at 06:57 | Report abuse |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      I have to suspect the price of the tobacco had something to do with so many quitting.

      December 30, 2012 at 23:40 | Report abuse |
  3. LI_Bri

    We can all thank mono-tone Mayor Bloomberg's soda law for this.

    December 26, 2012 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. chregr

    It is such a small drop.... I think if people stopped buying all the overprocessed foods and learned how to cook it would drop a lot more.

    December 26, 2012 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • asdf

      here here

      December 27, 2012 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
  5. joderito

    Well, that is promising. But we need to do way more! Let's keep moving in this direction, not just for children but for our adults as well!

    December 26, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. empresstrudy

    To followed up with liberal screeds that all the suddenly not fat kids now suffer from body image dysmorphism.

    December 26, 2012 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Unca Stumpy

      Wha?!

      What you typed isn't even easily identifiable as a form of human communication.

      December 27, 2012 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • Trollolol

      It's as if you didn't even try during English class...

      December 27, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
  7. Am

    Adults need to push back from the table and stop driving thru. Hospitals was now installing forklifts due to the obesity problems and nurses claiming workmens comp duemto injuries. Parents then have too move there kids to outside play with other kids instead of letting them sit in front to the tv and play video games all day. Also stop taking the kids to the drive thru.

    December 26, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miss Suzanne

      Unfortunately with the lack of assistance for mental health patients, as a parent, I am fearful of sending my kids outside to play without my constant vigilance. My child being abducted 1 time is 1 time too many. I try to feed them as healthful as we can afford to feed them, then depend on school, and the 1 or 2 paid athletic activities we can afford (gymnastics and swim lessons). We do what we can. Give parents a break. The majority of parents would not purposely provide an unhealthy home for their children.

      December 28, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Luckily (or more aptly after much planning), we live in the country where you have to go off the highway to a county road, then our posted private road to get to our little bunch of houses...all of which have kids living in them, and all of which carefully watch over each-other's kids if they are outside.

      Oh, and eveyone on the property has permission to shoot anyone or thing that may pose a threat to any of the kids in the neighborhood.

      Just the other day, I had to shoot a copperhead snake. The dogs had it cornered and away from the kids who were out waiting on the bus at the time.

      December 31, 2012 at 00:08 | Report abuse |
    • Odds

      @Miss Suzanne

      If eating healthy and exercising regularly is a challenge for the individual, it must be doubly so when attempting to make those same decisions for a child who doesn't recognize the long-term consequences. Ultimately this should be an easy decision to make, however, and yet, most Americans fail to make the correct choice with regard to their own health and that of their children. What SHOULD we say to them?

      On the one hand, it's not my responsibility to make your decisions for you, so you could argue that my opinion means nothing. Whatever makes you feel better, I suppose. But instead of taking issue with whether or not I should have said anything in the first place, I feel you'd be better served by honestly addressing what I have to say. You owe yourself an honest explanation, at least, right?

      I've had this battle out with coworkers, friends, family. It's always the same excuses, and I shoot them down one after the other. It's simple. Eating healthy is NOT more expensive. If you can afford to feed your family on the dollar menu at McDonald's, you can feed them a variety of healthy meals for cheaper – it just requires a little planning and the will to actually prepare a meal yourself! But who has the TIME? Well, YOU do! Or didn't you still manage to spend an hour watching TV inbetween your two jobs and juggling the kids in the balance? Be honest!

      What about exercise? Not enough time? Did you know that you get better quality sleep if you exercise regularly? What does that mean for those of you who never seem to have enough time? Well, imagine if instead of sleeping 5 hours and wishing you could sleep for 9, you sleep 5 hours, wake up before your alarm goes off, and feel rested and ready to face the day?

      Somehow people in this country all know these things. We've all heard them before. But we never seem to recognize exactly how life-changing this can be. If you load up on fruits and vegetables, cut out the junkfood, and get regular cardiovascular exercise, you won't need energy drinks to stay awake. You won't need 9 hours of sleep to still feel sluggish all day long. You won't need to consume 4000 calories per day when you're only burning half that. If you do the right things your body reciprocates by running the way its supposed to.

      All it takes is just making the right decisions and cutting the excuses out. You have the time. You have the money. All you're lacking is the willpower – which is entirely up to you!

      December 31, 2012 at 08:10 | Report abuse |
  8. Huh?

    It's amazing to me how much the right wing nut jobs love to troll.

    God bless President Obama and his family.

    (U MAD, BRO? xD)

    December 26, 2012 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CurmudgeonTx

      It's amazing watching trolls trolling trolls...I'll troll the troll trolling the trolls.

      Isn't this fun?

      December 31, 2012 at 00:10 | Report abuse |
  9. Dizzyd

    I've never put much stock in all this handwringing over 'obesity'. Some ppl are just fat, period. Should we encourage both kids and adults to eat right and exercise? By all means. Should we encourage hating someone – esp. oneself – for not looking like a supermodel? No!

    December 27, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Unca Stumpy

      I actually hate other people FOR looking trim and fit, so I'm not sure where that puts me.

      (Now for the serious bit: yes, "some people" are going to be fat, period. But when "some people fat, period" becomes "goldang near everybody, period" it's time to take a serious look at social and cultural trends...what were the stats on obesity in the military again? It's not "pretty much zero percent" as you'd think and hope it SHOULD be. That's a national security issue, I'd say. And I'm saying that as an incorrigible peacenik.)

      December 27, 2012 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      Many visually skinny people are obese. There are different ways to measure it, like using the electric BMI scale, or in looking at the fat content in one's liver, which can be bad for a skinny person and great for a large person. So, I think there is a way to convince people to be aware of their own health without being overly conscious of their appearance.

      December 27, 2012 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
    • Dav

      Yay this is Ahmurriccaaahh!! We take pride in our obesity, ignorance, racism, bigotry.... How dare they say these things may be bad!!

      December 29, 2012 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
  10. Basher

    Only because a Democrat is in the White House is this being reported in the positive.

    December 27, 2012 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Darliene Howell

    I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK). The total health of our nation's children is a serious responsibility.

    The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. Additionally, the CATK lists resources available to parents and educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at:
    http://issuu.com/naafa/docs/naafa_childadvocacy2011combined_v04?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed

    December 27, 2012 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laughing Girl

      Darliene–drop the HAES propaganda. It's not working, no matter how much you want it to.

      December 28, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  12. Darius

    I'm so glad that people are working on the obesity epidemic.
    I wonder when the fast food corporations will finally close their doors forever.

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    December 27, 2012 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ben

    Oh man, NOW what are we going to pretend is a terrible looming crisis?

    December 27, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bs

    bs.

    December 27, 2012 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. James

    Good to hear. Still need to take a few thousand chemicals out of our food, one being aspartame... But at least progress is being made. And for all the health nuts out there, meat is a necessary part of the perfect diet, in moderate amounts, and just because it is gluten free doesn't mean it is healthy.

    December 28, 2012 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • aspertame is the devil

      Yeah is it just me or is diet coke, pepsi, whatever, a total scam?

      As for the meat thing, the idea is that for most meat eaters, cutting their meat intake in half will most likely improve their health. But I agree that cutting it out completely can be dangerous, especially if you don't monitor your protein intake from other sources.

      December 28, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
  16. c laird

    It's not just the child daycare centers that had been feeding their wards too much junk food and thereby promoting obesity. I take care of an invalid adult relative who goes to a day care center for invalid adults, and they too had been doing that for I don't know how long. I first became aware of it when I first took charge of her care and I received a phone call from her Dr's office informing me that her cholesterol level was way too high. At a subsequent meeting with the ladies from her adult day care organization, I noticed that all of them were significantly overweight or obese as well. I soon came to observe that the overweight and obese themselves promote overeating and lack of physical activity just like smokers promote smoking, alcoholics promote drinking, and junkies promote drug abuse.

    It has been a long, hard battle with them to get them to cease and desist from overfeeding my invalid relative just like they overfeed themselves, but my relative's cholesterol level and weight have been brought down to more healthy levels now. They keep arguing with me that, now that her weight and cholesterol level have been brought down to more healthy levels, they can go back to feeding her the junk food like they were before! So I have to keep fighting with them to keep her weight and cholesterol levels down to more healthy levels.

    December 30, 2012 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Are there not any more healthy adult daycare centers you could contact and transfer this relative of yours to?

      December 31, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse |
    • c laird

      @CurmudgeonTx, we live in a small midwest US town, there aren't really a lot of alternatives available. But beyond that, the main point in my post was that the overweight and obese tend to promote the overeating and lack of physical activity which leads to obesity in children and others they take care of by overfeeding their wards just like they overfeed themselves.

      In addition I have observed that they tend to fight efforts by anyone who tries to change their behavior. They vilify anyone who tries to say or do anything to reduce their overfeeding or increase their physical activity by claiming that anyone who says or tries to do anything about their weight is bullying, abusing, or offending them. In this day of political correctness, their claims of bullying, abusing, and offending them often has the very strong effect of quashing any attempts to reduce their overfeeding and lack of physical activity, thereby even further promoting their obesity and the obesity epidemic in general.

      December 31, 2012 at 08:04 | Report abuse |
  17. taxedmore

    Fewer fat kids? About time.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Frank

    The haves and the have nots can often be traced back to the dids and the did nots: I don't know many people who eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and drink mostly water who become obese while on the other hand I'll see obese people regularly intake junk (passionately I may add.) They know what to do to be healthy but they choose not to. It's a choice (and a bit of education). And of course obese parents don't prepare pizza for themselves and prepare healthy meals for their kids on the other side of the table. – To be fair, airfares and such should be according to weight: I just hate paying the same amount as an obese person and therefoire paying extra for their indulgence. (That and being tight in my seat sitting next to an obese person... who makes no apologies of course.) It would be interesting to have 2 lists: one is the positive side of being obese and the other the negative side.

    December 30, 2012 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. john ferko

    If you just read this article, this video will be in your best interest to watch! Must watch video after reading this CNN Article! Very Relevant.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEIPm2QZmxk&w=640&h=390]

    December 30, 2012 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RM

    A little incomprehensibility here. If a toddler at or above the 95%-ile is obese, then 5% would be obese every year... whether the kids' weights generally went up or down. Perhaps the 95%-ile refers to some standardized cohort from some past year? So now we have three times as many obese kids as that mysterious past normal year?

    December 30, 2012 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ruben Papian

    It needs to be gone, not just lessened in effect. Children need to lead healthy lives from the get go but perhaps we should first look at us, parents, and fix a few things. I am sure if we did we would see a lot less obesity in children.

    December 31, 2012 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. saveyourfeet

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    January 1, 2013 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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  24. Prab R. Tumpati, MD

    8 Biggest Mistakes Obese People Make And How To Avoid Them!

    1. Avoid High Glycemic Foods and Think Protein!
    When people were fed high glycemic foods, they consumed up to 55 percent more foods as they get hungry sooner!

    2. Stop Looking At The Food!
    41.7% of obese people took seats that directly faced the buffet, as opposed to seats out of eyesight of the food. Looking at food (not on our table) makes our body and mind less full and feel we have more work to do, i.e. eat more. Keep food stored away and not laying out during the day.

    3. Start With A Smaller Plate!
    When two plates were offered, 98.6% of people with a higher BMI(Body Mass Index) took the larger plate in a buffet line. A larger plate will fool your brain into thinking you’re eating less than you actually are. Use a smaller plate, get a smaller waist line.

    4. Do Not Eat All In The Plate!
    During the study, 94% obese people cleaned their plates to the point of nothing being left. Forget your Mom’s advice and leave a little food left on the plate. Better waste than waist!

    5. Chew More!
    The researchers observed chewing of participants in the study. The heaviest one-third chewed their food almost 25% less than the leanest one-third. Slow down. Take your time. Chew your food.

    6. Do not jump right in!
    The most obese people didn’t take time to observe all the items on the buffet. They grabbed a plate and started in right away. The leanest took their time and made a lap of the buffet. In your day to day life, stop and think for a second before you eat. Often times that quick craving will slowly fade away.

    7. Never Skip Breakfast!
    They don’t call it the most important meal of the day for a reason. Skipping breakfast regularly increases your risk of obesity by 450%. Take the time to have a healthy breakfast in the morning. It will jump start your metabolism and leave you less hungry by lunch. If you start the day with protein, studies have shown that you consume less calories and be less hungry throughout the day. A good and cheap source of protein would be eggs, cheese, yoghurt or meat! The cholesterol in the eggs is not a major concern as eggs have lecithin which is beneficial. If you are still concerned about cholesterol, you can just have the egg whites which have no cholesterol.

    8. Eat With Chopsticks(or Fingers)!
    Some buffets offer chopsticks. The clinically obese almost always opt for forks. Try using chopsticks around the home to slow down eating and create a feeling of fullness with less calories consumed. And finally, buy a lock for the refrigerator. Just kidding!

    Prab R. Tumpati, MD
    Sleep and Obesity Medicine and Founder
    W8MD Medical Weight Loss Centers
    http://www.w8md.com

    March 12, 2013 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Flixercise

      Here is a great resource to help keep kids active and entertained: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oravQUX2oV0
      Visit http://www.flixercise.com

      April 17, 2013 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
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