Wednesday January 2, 2013
Fewer obese kids in US
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 last week indicated.
The study found that obesity rates peaked in 2004 and then declined slightly among low-income children aged two to four who receive benefits from a federal food stamp programme called SNAP.
“To our knowledge, this is the first national study to show that the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity among young US children may have begun to decline,” wrote lead author Liping Pan of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (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.”
The researchers analysed data from a paediatric nutrition surveillance system which monitors almost half of the children eligible for federally funded maternal and child health and nutrition programmes.
They were able to access height and weight data from 27.5 million children aged two to four in the 30 US states which consistently reported their data.
In 1998, obesity levels were at 13.05% of the children. This rose to a peak of 15.36% in 2004 before declining to 14.94% in 2010.
Extreme obesity rates rose from 1.75% in 1998 to a peak of 2.22% in 2003 before slipping down to 2.07% in 2010, the study published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association found.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr David Ludwig said the declines seen are not enough, and he urged an overhaul of 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 obesity prevention centre at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts.
More than a third of US children were overweight in 2008, the CDC found in a previous study.
Childhood obesity rates jumped from 7% of children aged six to 11 in 1980 to 20% in 2008. The number of obese teens aged 12 to 19 jumped from 5% to 18% over the same period. – AFP