by Richard Lenti
Obesity rates in children of low income families may finally be on the decline according to the results of a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA).
After nearly a decade on the rise, researchers found a slight decrease in the rate of childhood obesity, from 15.21 percent in 2003 to 14.94 percent in 2010.
The rates of extreme childhood obesity also feel slightly, from 2.22% in 2003 to 2.07% in 2010.
Although modest, federal health officials say the results are encouraging because obesity during childhood is likely to continue into adulthood.
“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 write. “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 study involved nearly 27 million children from 30 states and the District of Columbia. The children were part of the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System which includes almost half of all children ages 2 through 4 who are eligible for federally funded maternal and child health and nutrition programs.
“Obesity and extreme obesity in childhood, which are more prevalent among minority and low-income families, have been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors, increased health care costs, and premature death.” said Liping Pan, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.
Some doctors say the government can play a bigger role in fighting obesity through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by improving its recommendations for nutritional quality for 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, “writes David S. Ludwig, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, in an editorial also appearing in JAMA .
“The nation’s $75 billion investment in SNAP could provide a major opportunity to reduce the burden of diet-related disease among low-income children and families if policies that promote nutritional quality are instituted.”