Fewer of America's Poor Kids Are Becoming Obese

From Drugs.com - January 8, 2018

Fewer of America's Poor Kids Are Becoming Obese

MONDAY, Jan. 8, 2018 -- Obesity rates among poor kids may be declining, U.S. health officials report.

The number of severely obese 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) increased to slightly more than 2 percent of all kids from 2000 to 2004, but it then decreased over the next decade to slightly less than 2 percent.

Though a small drop, the trend was seen among all ethnic and racial groups living throughout the nation, the researchers noted.

"Our findings indicate recent progress in reducing the prevalence of severe obesity among young U.S. children enrolled in WIC," said lead researcher Dr. Liping Pan, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"However, severe obesity in early childhood remains a serious public health concern," Pan added.

Obesity rates in children remain high, and those with obesity and severe obesity face significant health and social challenges, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, she said.

"These lifelong health risks associated with severe obesity during early childhood indicate the importance of preventing and identifying severe obesity as early as possible," Pan said.

Differences in genetic, behavioral and environmental factors across years may have contributed to the increases and decreases in the prevalence of severe obesity, Pan said.

In addition, changes in WIC benefits might also have influenced the recent declines in obesity and severe obesity.

"The WIC food packages were revised in 2009 to promote fruits, vegetables and whole-wheat products, include more variety of healthy food options, support breast-feeding and provide state agencies with greater flexibility in prescribing foods to accommodate cultural food preferences," she said.

Recommendations and activities from the CDC and strategies from the U.S. Institute of Medicine to prevent and manage childhood obesity also may have contributed to the modest declines in severe obesity, Pan said.

The report was published online Jan. 8 in JAMA Pediatrics.

"The last time we got news about severe obesity among young children in the U.S., that news was all bad," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. "But no one should mistake this reassuring update for good news."


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