Tide turning in the fight against childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in recent years, but a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests this trend may be changing.
According to the report, which studied low-income pre-school age children, the obesity rates among this group have dropped slightly in approximately 19 out of 43 states and territories. However, the obesity rates increased slightly in three states and remained unchanged in 21 states, including Illinois.
The preschoolers that participated in this study were part of the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PNSS), which monitors the nutritional status of children through federally funded child health programs.
The report has bright spots but some doctors think it’s too early to know if the trend is changing.
Dr. Boguslaw Bonczak, family medicine physician at Advocate Sherman Hospital, Elgin, Ill., believes the report does not reflect a large enough population of children to provide an accurate representation of childhood obesity.
“My concern with this report is that it’s based on one particular population of children that participated in a government program,” Dr. Bonczak says. “The obesity rates may be slightly improving with this group of children, but there are millions of children this report did not include. Childhood obesity is still a major concern across the country and here in Illinois.”
While this report is a positive for this particular age group and income level, the CDC acknowledges the nation has a long way to go to dramatically improve childhood obesity rates on a large scale. The report finds that 12 percent of American pre-school age children are obese. According to the report, “Obesity rates in low-income preschoolers, after decades of rising, began to level off from 2003 through 2008 and now is showing small declines in many states. However, too many preschoolers are obese.”
To reduce a child’s risk of obesity, Dr. Bonczak says education is key for both parents and kids on the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. For example, teaching parents which foods consist of carbohydrates that may lead to weight gain.
Children should also be active for more than two hours every day, whether riding a bike or playing baseball with friends. Dr. Bonczak also encourages mothers to breastfeed to reduce a child’s obesity risk. “Studies have shown that once you increase the rate of breastfeeding, obesity rates in children are decreased dramatically,” he says. A child who is obese is at greater risk for developing health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life.
“From my observation, if a child is overweight or obese, they will have about an 80 percent chance of being overweight or obese as an adult,” Dr. Bonczak says. “That’s why it’s so important to educate parents about how obesity can impact their child later in life.”
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