Preschoolers’ obesity decline misleading

Preschoolers’ obesity decline misleading

Preschoolers’ obesity decline misleading

Preschoolers’ obesity decline misleading

by Mary Budinger — 

Obesity rates among American preschoolers have dropped 43 percent in the past decade, according to a recent government study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, researchers also found that obesity prevalence increased among women ages 60 and older. More than 68 percent of U.S. adults were obese or overweight, with 34.9 percent being obese — with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher and 6.4 percent being extremely obese — with a BMI of 40 or higher.

The study authors did not outline a specific reason for a decline in obesity rates among the youngest children, although health experts have some theories.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Improved breastfeeding rates are the most likely primary factor contributing to the decline seen in this age group (2- to 5-year-olds). After decades of disastrous infant formula marketing to new moms, it appears we are finally acknowledging the critical value of breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of babies breastfeeding at six months increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010, and infants still breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during that same time period. While most infant formulas are about 50 percent carbohydrates, breast milk is naturally around 18 percent, which is the obvious problem that contributes to infant obesity.”

Other critics questioned whether the 43 percent decline is even accurate. A study of preschoolers in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides food vouchers and nutrition counseling to low-income families, found virtually no change in obesity rates. The WIC program in California’s Los Angeles County found obesity rose by about 17 percent between 2003 and 2011.

“We agree there is a slight downward trend in obesity among 2- to 5-year-olds,” said Shannon Whaley, a co-author of the WIC study. “But a 43 percent drop is absolutely not what we are seeing.”

For obesity rates to drop, young children would likely have to eat differently and become more active. But research shows little sign of such changes among 2- to 5-year-olds, casting more doubt on the 43 percent claim.

Sources: Ogden C, Carroll M et al. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA February 26, 2014 and Mass Obesity No Cause for Celebration, March 12, 2014.


Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about nutrition and integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 3, June/July 2014.

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