Study Shows Increase in Severe Obesity Among Preschool-aged Children in the US

Image By: Dr Deb Levy

Recent research provides fresh proof that young US children are increasingly suffering from severe obesity.

There was some optimism that youngsters enrolled in government feeding programs would be defying the general downward trend in obesity rates because past studies had shown those kids’ rates were beginning to decline around ten years ago.

However, a report published on Monday in the Pediatrics journal indicates that by 2020, the incidence had somewhat increased again.

The rise is consistent with other national statistics that indicate around 2.5% of preschool-aged children were classified as seriously obese over the same time frame.

One of the study’s authors, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Heidi Blanck, stated, “We were doing well and now we see this upward trend.”

“We are appalled by these discoveries.”

Study Shows Increase in Severe Obesity Among Preschool-aged Children in the US
Image By: New York Post

The program, Women, Infants, and Children, offers nutritious diets and other services to preschool-aged children from low-income households. The study focused on children aged 2 to 4 who were participating in this program.

Children were weighed and measured.

In 2010, the researchers discovered that 2.1% of the children in the program were significantly fat.

Six years later, the figure had fallen to 1.8%.

However, by 2020, it had dropped to 2%. This equates to around 33,000 of the more than 1.6 million children enrolled in the WIC program.

Significant increases were seen in 20 states, with California having the highest rate at 2.8%. Some racial and ethnic groupings also saw significant increases.

Hispanic children had the highest incidence, around 2.8%.

According to experts, too much weight at a young age is practically permanent and is closely linked to chronic health issues and premature mortality.

Blanck stated that it is unclear why the spike happened.

When WIC obesity rates fell, several experts linked it to policy changes implemented in 2009 that removed juice from infant food containers, supplied less saturated fat, and attempted to make it simpler to purchase fruits and vegetables.

The package has remained unchanged. However, “the daily hardships that poor families face today may be more difficult than they were ten years ago, and the slight increases in the WIC package just weren’t enough,” according to Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a Duke University pediatric obesity researcher.

The researchers experienced difficulties. The number of children receiving WIC has decreased during the last decade. Furthermore, the research period includes 2020, the year of the COVID-19 epidemic, when fewer parents took their children to visit physicians.

As a result, the amount of full information provided was lowered.

Despite its limitations, the study was a “very well done study,” according to Deanna Hoelscher, a pediatric obesity researcher at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. “It gives you a hint of what’s going on.”

What has transpired since 2020 is unknown. Some small studies have found a significant rise in childhood obesity, particularly during the pandemic, when children were kept home from school, eating and sleeping patterns were interrupted, and physical activity was reduced.

“We believe it will get worse,” Hoelscher added.

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