Researchers find slight decrease in obesity among young children

By Mary MacVean

Obesity may be declining slightly among preschoolers in low-income families, researchers looking at federal data said.

Obesity and extreme obesity in childhood have been associated with other risk factors for heart disease and with premature death. And the condition is likely to continue into adulthood, Dr. Liping Pan of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote.

The authors analyzed data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, which includes almost half of the children eligible for federal maternal and child health and nutrition programs. They wrote about the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association in a research letter published on Christmas Day.

The more than 26 million children whose data was included in the study were ages 2 to 4. The prevalence of obesity increased from 13 percent in 1998 to 15.2 percent in 2003, but declined to 14.9 percent in 2010; extreme obesity went from 1.75 percent in 1998 to 2.2 percent in 2003, to 2.07 percent in 2010.

“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.”

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