WASHINGTON – After decades of rising, obesity rates among low-income U.S. preschoolers declined broadly from 2008 to 2011, according to a federal report released Tuesday that offered the first glimpse of good news for children considered among the most vulnerable to the disease’s health risks.
While other, smaller studies have cited drops among school-age children, the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) represent by far the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children, officials said.
Nineteen states and U.S. territories had a lower percentage of obese children aged 2 to 4, according to the report.
Officials said the decline was most likely attributed to three broad trends. More fresh fruit and vegetables instead of sugar-laden juices are among the healthier foods recently mandated in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. An increase in breast-feeding, which some research associates with lower risk of obesity, and greater public awareness of health and physical fitness programs are also making a difference.
Childhood obesity remains an epidemic that can lead to high blood pressure as well as respiratory and joint problems. One in 8 preschoolers in the U.S. is obese.