Childhood Obesity Growth Appears To Have Leveled Off, But Racial Disparities Remain, Study Finds
Minority children continue to have some of the highest obesity rates, according to a new study that indicates the decades-long growth in childhood obesity in the U.S. appears to have leveled off, the Washington Post reports. For the study, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, lead author Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues analyzed data on 8,165 children age two to 19 from the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 versions of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Previous research showed that the proportion of U.S. children who are obese has tripled from about 5% to 15% since about 1980 (Stein, Washington Post, 5/28). In the latest study, researchers found that 16.3% of children were considered obese and that 11.3% of those children were considered extremely obese. They also found that 15.6% of children were overweight (Bavley, Kansas City Star, 5/27). When combined, about 32% of children, or 23 million, are overweight or obese, the study found (Hellmich, USA Today, 5/28).
Obesity rates among minority children also appear to have stopped growing, though there are still differences in obesity rates based on race, researchers found (Parker-Pope, New York Times, 5/28).
According to the study, among girls ages 12 to 19, about 27.7% of blacks and 19.9% of Mexican-Americans were obese, compared with 14.5% of whites. For boys ages six to 11, 27.5% of Mexican-Americans and 18.6% of blacks were considered extremely obese, compared with 15.5% of whites. Data on Asian-American children were not included in the study (Zarembo, Los Angeles Times, 5/28).
David Ludwig -- a childhood obesity expert at Children's Hospital Boston who wrote an editorial accompanying the study -- said, "Obesity is striking poor and minority children more severely than whites and wealthier populations" (Dunham, Reuters, 5/27).
According to the New York Times, "It is not clear if the lull in childhood weight gain is permanent or even if it is the result of public anti-obesity efforts to limit junk food and increase physical activity in schools." In addition, there is a "concern ... that the lull could represent a natural plateau that would have occurred regardless of public health efforts," the Times reports. Another "worry is that as obesity rates stabilize, financing for childhood health efforts will wane," according to the Times.
Ogden said the study "doesn't mean we've solved [the childhood obesity problem], but maybe there is some opportunity for some optimism here" (New York Times, 5/28).
An abstract of the study is available online.