Source: New York Times.com
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. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers.
…(T)he 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…the lead author of the report, which will be published in…The Journal of the American Medical Association…“It was exciting.”
…There was little consensus on why the decline might be happening, but many theories. Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999. More women are breast-feeding, which can lead to a healthier range of weight gain for young children…
Barry M. Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…credited…families…buying lower-calorie foods over the past decade…and changes in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children…(It) subsidizes food for low-income women…(and increased) funding for…whole fruits and vegetables.
Another possible explanation is that some combination of state, local and federal policies aimed at reducing obesity is starting to make a difference. Michelle Obama, the first lady, has led a push to change young children’s eating and exercise habits and 10,000 child care centers across the country have signed on.
The news announcement from the Centers for Disease Control included a remark from Mrs. Obama: “I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.”
New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also made a major push to combat obesity. The city told restaurants to stop using artificial trans fats in cooking and required chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus.
…Researchers welcomed the drop but cautioned that only time will tell if the progress will be sustained. “This is great news, but I’m cautious,” said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York. “The picture will be clearer when we have a few more years of data.”
Still, she added that the 2- to 5-year-olds “might be riding a new wave,” in which changes in habits and environment over many years are finally sinking in.