Obesity Among US Toddlers In Steady Decline

Recent data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that obesity rates, particularly among preschool children, are dropping.  This population has seen obesity rates drop steadily from 16 percent in 2010 to 14 percent last year.  

It might seem strange to measure obesity among society’s youngest members, but the reality is that the preschool-aged children who become obese tend to be those in households supported by government programs. This suggests, the study says, that the government is making it easier for families who receive assistance to gain access to healthier foods. 

Specifically, the improvement has most affected young children between the ages of 2 and 4 who receive either food vouchers or other services through the federal Women, Infant, and Children nutrition program (WIC), or both.  The latest data shows that about twenty percent—one in five—of children in the US, of this age group were enrolled in one or more of these programs, in 2016.

This report seems to support data from an earlier report that analyzed program participants—in the same age group—to find similarly small declines in obesity across 18 states between 2008 and 2011. This was the first decline after many years of notable increases but then leveled off. Researchers were not sure, at the time, if this was a new trend or just a bump.

Indeed, more thorough research suggests that there have been vast improvements in food options within these programs, now including more healthful options like fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. It is these options that consistently contribute to this consecutive obesity decline.  

Now while this data is quite promising, the CDC advises that too many children in the United States are still on the unhealthy side of heavy.  Thus the new data could be the beginning of a significant health shift among young children, who might then also carry healthier habits into adulthood.   Since nearly 40 percent of adults in the US are obese, starting these healthy habits as early as possible should certainly help bring weight range among US adults back to a healthy level. 

The results of this study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).