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Study: Preschool Obesity Rate Stable at 1 in 7

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

New government research shows that the U.S. obesity epidemic has stabilized in the past five years among preschool-aged children at about one in seven children being obese.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 14.6 percent of 2- to 4-year-old children were obese in 2008, about the same as in 2003 and compared to a 12.4 percent obesity rate in 1998.

“These new data provide some encouragement but remind us of two things — one, too many young children are obese, and two, we must not become complacent in our efforts to reduce obesity among young children,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

Childhood obesity is known to increase the risks of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life, and it can often lead to adult obesity.

The CDC surveyed some 2 million children. Researchers defined obesity as having a body mass index, which is a measure of height and weight, that ranked at or above the 95th percentile on growth charts.

American Indians and Alaska Natives were the only racial or ethnic group where the proportion of obese children rose between 2003 to 2008 — rising about one-half percent per year in each group to 21.2 percent.

Hispanic preschoolers had the next-highest obesity rate in 2008 at 18.5 percent, with 12.6 percent of young white children and 11.8 percent of black children considered obese.

Study author Dr. Andrea Sharma, a CDC epidemiologist, said reducing obesity rates required “policy changes that promote physical activity and good nutrition.”

She urged “greater consumption of water and fruits and vegetables and lower consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods high in fats or added sugars.”

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