Obesity rates may be declining in low-income children

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the rates of obesity may be declining among preschool-aged children who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Obesity and extreme obesity in childhood, which are more prevalent among minority and low-income families, have been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors, increased healthcare costs, and premature death,” wrote study author Liping Pan, M.D., M.P.H., of the CDC in the research report. “Understanding trends in extreme obesity is important because the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors increases with [the] severity of childhood obesity.”

During the study, the investigators looked at data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) regarding nearly 26.7 million children who were between two and four years old. The researchers used the information from one randomly-selected physician’s visit in which height and weight was recorded.

The results of the study showed that the rates of obesity increased from 13.05 percent to 15.21 percent between 1998 and 2003, while the rates of extreme obesity increased from 1.75 percent to 2.22 percent during that same time period. The researchers revealed that the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity declined to 14.94 and 2.07 respectively, between 2003 and 2010.

The study authors noted that this is the first study to indicate a declining rate of obesity in U.S. children, and the results have important implications, due to the myriad health issues that can result from being overweight.

Obesity prevalence
According to the CDC, nearly 12.5 million children and adolescents between two and 19 years old are obese, and since 1980 the prevalence of obesity has increased nearly threefold. The source also notes that data from 2007 and 2008 showed that Hispanic boys were more likely to be obese than Caucasian boys or black girls.

A notable contributing factor to the high rates of childhood obesity is the availability of unhealthy foods and sugar-laden beverages to the 55 million children who attend public schools. There is also a strong advertising presence for foods that have high levels of calories, sugars, salts and fats.

The CDC also reports that many children lack the resources to get an adequate amount of exercise. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which noted that children should get at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, and in 2007, only 18 percent of adolescents who were in grades nine through 12 reported meeting this recommendation. While schools can be play a crucial role in encouraging physical fitness, in 2009 only 33 percent of students attended gym classes.

Many children also do not have access to safe places to play and exercise, according to the CDC, and approximately 50 percent of children do not have a park, community center or sidewalks at their disposal.

Another contributing factor of obesity is children spending more time engaged in media outlets. The CDC reports that children and adolescents between 8 and 18 years old usually spend about 7.5 hours a day watching television, playing video games, using the computer and talking on cell phones. Not only does increased television watching mean less time spent exercising, but it is also linked with higher levels of food intake.

To lose weight, children should eat a diet that’s rich with fruits and vegetables and low in foods that have high amounts saturated fats and trans fats. Children should also try to exercise daily and get access to healthier food options via their schools and local supermarkets. Brigham and Women’s Hospital also reports that vitamin D may help with weight loss. Vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure, fortified cereals and a Skinny D supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.