New CDC data show decrease in obesity rates in young kids

ObesityDownThere has been a significant decline in obesity among children ages 2 to 5, according to the latest CDC obesity data, published in the Feb. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Obesity prevalence for this age group went from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004 to just over 8 percent in 2011-2012 — a decline of 43 percent — based on CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Although the JAMA study does not specifically compare 2009-2010 with 2011-2012, NHANES data does show a decline in the 2 to 5 year old age group during that time period – from just over 12 percent in 2009-2010 to just over 8 percent in 2011-2012.

"We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping. This report comes on the heels of previous CDC data that found a significant decline in obesity prevalence among low-income children aged 2 to 4 years participating in federal nutrition programs," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "We've also seen signs from communities around the country with obesity prevention programs including Anchorage, Alaska, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Washington. This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic."


Why the obesity decline?

While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity among 2 to 5 year olds are not clear, many childcare centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. In addition, CDC data show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breastfed children.

"I am thrilled at the progress we've made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans," said Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America. "With the participation of kids, parents, and communities in Let's Move! these last four years, healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm."

Overall, CDC's latest NHANES obesity data published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence among 2-19 year olds or adults in the United States between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.