According to a new study, the rates of obesity among kids in the United States did not decrease for any age group and continued to rise among many subgroups. This new study has shown that overall the numbers have not fallen between 1999 and 2016 as hoped for. Of particular concern, previously documented racial and ethnic disparities, especially at the most extreme weight categories, showed no sign of abating.
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The study published this week in the journal Pediatrics shows that there is also a significant rise in obesity among children aged 2 and 5 years since 2013.
Asheley Skinner, a health services researcher and associate professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, first author of the new study says that some studies a few years before were showing a hopeful trend. This new study however shows that this decline in obesity among the same age group is now reversing. She said this was “disheartening” and not “surprising”. She explained that this rising trend shows that the efforts to curb childhood obesity may not be reaching children across the whole country. She added that there has to be a bigger thrust to “improve access to healthy food and physical activity” while accepting that this has to accommodate the fact that the parents have a busy stressful schedule apart from child rearing.
According to the experts, childhood obesity can be dangerous in more ways than one. Obesity can raise the risk of diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, heart disease, arthritis and cancers in the sufferers. Being obese since childhood means the risks are greater. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), the rates of obesity among American children has triples since 1970 and at least one in five kids are now obese or overweight. The numbers are similar in the United Kingdom and most of the other parts of the world as well says the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says that worldwide the number of overweight and obese kids below the age of 5 years has risen from 32 million to 41 million.
This new study looked at obesity rates all over USA between 1999 and 2016 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the CDC. Obesity rates among kids aged between 2 and 19 were recorded. There was a significant rise in obesity rates among children aged 2 to 5 years and girls aged between 16 and 19 years they found. Results showed that at the beginning of the study 29 percent children were overweight and 20 percent children were obese. At the end of the survey the percentages stood at 35 percent and 26 percent respectively. Asian American children were at a lesser risk of obesity compared to African American and Hispanic children, the authors noted.
Skinner said this study goes to show that obesity among kids has not really “gone away”. She explained why this study results are different from previous studies, adding that this study was more recent than earlier studies. The second reason she explained was that the earlier studies did not cover extensive regions over the country such as this new study. The earlier studies covered small regions where schools have taken proactive steps to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity among children. This led to the encouraging results. This new study however provides a wider and more comprehensive picture of the scenario of obesity among children she said.
In an accompanying editorial with the paper, Dr. David Ludwig, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and founding director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Boston Children's Hospital, wrote that the government should form an interagency commission on obesity to fight this menace. He added that obesity shortens life expectancy and also taxes the healthcare system. There is a deeper understanding of the mechanics and causes of obesity he writes and these may all be corrected and addressed. “The battle against childhood obesity faces many obstacles, most notably entrenched special interests and a 'business as usual' mindset…But with political will and collaboration across key sectors of society, we can hopefully, soon, begin to end this worsening epidemic,” he wrote.