Study bolsters evidence that severe obesity increasing in young US kids

Last Updated on December 18, 2023 by admin

Study bolsters evidence that severe obesity increasing in young US kids
FILE – A beam scale is seen in New York on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. A study of young kids in the Women, Infants and Children program adds to evidence that severe obesity is becoming more common in young U.S. children. The update was published Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in the journal Pediatrics. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

A recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, sheds light on concerning developments regarding severe obesity among young children in the United States. The findings indicate a reversal in a previously observed decline in obesity rates, especially among children enrolled in a government food assistance program.

The study, conducted by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focused on children aged 2 to 4 enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. This program aims to support low-income families by providing access to healthy foods and related services for preschool-aged children.

Initially, there was a glimmer of hope as earlier research hinted at a decline in obesity rates among these children around a decade ago. However, the recent update released in the journal Pediatrics reveals a disheartening trend—the rate of severe obesity in this demographic rebounded by 2020, signaling a setback in the progress made.

Heidi Blanck, one of the study’s authors, expressed dismay at the upward trend, highlighting the disappointment among researchers. The data points to an increase in severe obesity, aligning with broader national trends where approximately 2.5% of preschool-aged children were classified as severely obese during the same period.

In 2010, 2.1% of children in the WIC program were severely obese. By 2016, this rate had slightly decreased to 1.8%. However, by 2020, it climbed to 2%, affecting around 33,000 of more than 1.6 million kids in the WIC program.

The study highlighted significant increases in severe obesity across 20 states, with California exhibiting the highest rate at 2.8%. Furthermore, certain racial and ethnic groups experienced notable rises, with Hispanic children reaching the highest rate of about 2.8%.

Experts emphasize the critical impact of severe obesity at such a young age, linking it strongly to chronic health issues and premature mortality. The irrevocable nature of these health concerns adds urgency to address and reverse this troubling trend.

The study did not pinpoint specific causes for the increase, leaving researchers pondering the contributing factors. While policy changes in 2009 were previously associated with the decline in obesity rates, recent hardships faced by families living in poverty might have offset the impact of these measures.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a childhood obesity researcher from Duke University, highlighted that despite the unchanged WIC package, the daily challenges faced by families in poverty might have intensified, rendering the modest adjustments insufficient.

However, the study faced limitations, including a decline in the number of children enrolled in WIC over the past decade and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted regular healthcare visits, affecting the availability of comprehensive information.

Looking beyond 2020, uncertainties loom large. Some preliminary studies suggest a potential surge in childhood obesity during the pandemic due to disrupted routines, reduced physical activity, and altered eating habits caused by prolonged school closures and altered lifestyles.

The implications are dire, with experts expressing concerns about a potential worsening of the situation. Understanding and addressing the complex factors contributing to childhood obesity are crucial in averting further escalation and safeguarding the health of future generations.

This article was originally published on Yahoo News

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