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Childhood Obesity Report Says Numbers Leveling

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:06 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Obesity, Cancer, Heart Attack, Diabetes

Childhood obesity seems to have leveled off but at 17%, much higher than is healthy for the long term.



IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ fat adolescent/ author: Robert Lawton 


It wasn’t long ago that the media clamored about the obesity epidemic in our young.  So what is the story?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that after a two decade rise, childhood obesity rates seem to have leveled off. 

It may not be time to break out the ice cream and cake in celebration just yet.

One in three children in this country is at least overweight. Some are obese. They face a lifetime of battling the bulge, the social stigma and related health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart problems.  

The latest data was collected from more than 8,000 children in 1999 to 2006 by the CDC and is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  

Among the children, about 16 percent registered as obese, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at or above the 95th percentile. Overweight is calculated at the 85th percentile. You can calculate your BMI with this index. 

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, approximately five percent of children and teens were obese. In the 1980’s that jumped to 6.5 percent and by 1994, that number was 11.3 percent.

By the year 2002, 16.3 percent of children and teens were obese.

The only good news is that since 1999, the obesity rates have not continued to climb. And the number of obese children dropped to 15.5 percent from 17.1 percent between 2003 and 2006.

Young children, ages two to five, were less likely to be overweight when compared to adolescents up to age 19.

Race is a factor too.  Caucasian girls are obese at a rate of 14.5 percent; Hispanics are 20 percent; and African-Americans teen girls at 28 percent.

It’s difficult to know if it is a steadying of the spike or just a lull, say experts.

The trending may be due to public health campaigns raising awareness about obesity or due to a natural leveling off of the population that was susceptible to obesity.

Now the question is, can the trend be reversed?

After-school physical activity is addressing the problem of inactivity.  

In Arkansas, vending machines are out in the elementary schools and an additional half-hour of physical activity is in.  BMI numbers have reportedly held steady.

But financial considerations recently prompted the state to cut physical activity programs in middle and high school.

And grassroots citizen participation is helping put food on the curriculum at schools both in the classroom and in the cafeteria.

The Organic School Project in Chicago is attempting to make children mindful eaters, one school at a time, by providing whole foods to schools and adding gardening to the curriculum.

Other schools around the country are beginning to value and emphasize food education such as Food Is Elementary at the Food Studies Institute in New York.    

Dr. David Ludwig, director of children’s obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston tells the New York Times, “We still lack anything resembling a national strategy to take this problem seriously.” Dr. Ludwig,  is the co-author of an editorial accompanying the obesity report.

“The rates of obesity in children are so hugely high that without any further increases, the impact of this epidemic will be felt with increasing severity for many years to come.”  # 

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