Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is The Obesity Tide Turning Among Preschoolers?

(Reuters Health) - In eastern Massachusetts, the number of kids under age six who are obese declined significantly in recent years -- a trend that might be happening nationwide as well, according to a new study.

On the down side, obesity rates among lower-income children remain more stubbornly stable, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

Recent studies have shown that after decades of rising obesity rates among U.S. kids and teens, the numbers seem to be leveling off.

But less has been known about young children specifically, said Dr. Xiaozhong Wen, of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston.

Patterns in that age group are important, Wen said, because they give a glimpse into the future of the national obesity problem.

So his team looked at obesity trends among kids younger than six who were seen at greater-Boston-area pediatric offices.

The researchers found that after holding steady between 1999 and 2003, the obesity rate began to fall after 2004.

By 2008, just under nine percent of boys were obese, compared with almost 11 percent between 1999 and 2004. Among girls, the obesity rate declined from over eight percent to just over six percent.

The trend was similar to what was going on nationwide at the time, the study found. But Massachusetts children had a lower obesity rate than the national norm, and the decline over time was sharper.

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