Childhood Obesity Rates Falling Slightly Among Low-Income Families, Says Study

It looks like U.S. families may have a reason to celebrate this holiday season.

The New York Times is reporting that according to a nationwide study there has been a modest decline in obesity rates among children ages 2-4-year-olds from low-income households, indicating the epidemic may be on its way to being controlled.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explored the height and weight measurements of 27 million children. An estimated 20 percent of poor children are obese, in comparison with about 12 percent of children from more affluent families.

“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,” stated the report. “Obesity and extreme obesity during childhood are likely to continue into adulthood. Understanding trends in extreme obesity is important because the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors increases with the severity of childhood obesity.”

While the report stated it is unknown which national trends are causing extreme weight gain among low-income families, the results are optimistic.

“The declines we’re presenting here are pretty modest, but it is a change in direction,” said study author Dr. Heidi M. Blanck to the newspaper. “We were going up before. And this data shows we’re going down. For us, that’s pretty exciting.”

The news publication stated that over the past year, major cities throughout the country have reported obesity declines among several parts of their student population. Specific reasons weren’t mentioned, but implementing school exercise programs, encouraging physical fitness, as well as providing healthier options at cafeterias may be some potential factors.

It’s also been noted that the new study is among the first to document a national decline in obesity among young children from low-income families.

In addition, Blanck highlighted other possible reasons. Breast-feeding, she said, often leads to healthier weight gain for young children and has increased considerably since 2000. The percentage of babies being breast-fed climbed to nearly 50 percent in 2009, up from 34 percent among infants born in 2000.

Also, the study found the amount of money spent on food marketing targeting children declined by nearly 20 percent from 2006 to 2009. Plus, cereals marketed to children ages 2 to 11 had about a gram less sugar per serving in 2009 than in 2006, all while featuring slightly more whole grain.

The study was published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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