New York Times
By February 25, 2014

Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Click here for video coverage - notice 25 seconds in, Michelle Obama is playing with children at the Penacook Community Center in Penacook, NH!!

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at 3 to 5 years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

A smattering of states have reported modest progress in reducing childhood obesity in recent years, and last year the federal authorities noted a slight decline in the obesity rate among low-income children. But the figures on Tuesday showed a sharp fall in obesity rates among all 2- to 5-year-olds, offering the first clear evidence that America’s youngest children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic. About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004.

“This is the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the report (see abstract below), which will be published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, on Wednesday. “It was exciting.”

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JAMA Abstract

Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012

Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD1; Margaret D. Carroll, MSPH1; Brian K. Kit, MD, MPH1,2; Katherine M. Flegal, PhD1
JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.

 

Importance  
More than one-third of adults and 17% of youth in the United States are obese, although the prevalence remained stable between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010.

Objective  
To provide the most recent national estimates of childhood obesity, analyze trends in childhood obesity between 2003 and 2012, and provide detailed obesity trend analyses among adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants  
Weight and height or recumbent length were measured in 9120 participants in the 2011-2012 nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Main Outcomes and Measures 
In infants and toddlers from birth to 2 years, high weight for recumbent length was defined as weight for length at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts. In children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts. In adults, obesity was defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Analyses of trends in high weight for recumbent length or obesity prevalence were conducted overall and separately by age across 5 periods (2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, 2009-2010, and 2011-2012).

Results  
In 2011-2012, 8.1% (95% CI, 5.8%-11.1%) of infants and toddlers had high weight for recumbent length, and 16.9% (95% CI, 14.9%-19.2%) of 2- to 19-year-olds and 34.9% (95% CI, 32.0%-37.9%) of adults (age-adjusted) aged 20 years or older were obese. Overall, there was no significant change from 2003-2004 through 2011-2012 in high weight for recumbent length among infants and toddlers, obesity in 2- to 19-year-olds, or obesity in adults. Tests for an interaction between survey period and age found an interaction in children (P = .03) and women (P = .02). There was a significant decrease in obesity among 2- to 5-year-old children (from 13.9% to 8.4%; P = .03) and a significant increase in obesity among women aged 60 years and older (from 31.5% to 38.1%; P = .006).

Conclusions and Relevance  
Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.

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