At Last, Obesity Drops in Preschoolers

Obesity among low income preschoolers decreased from 2008 to 2011

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Tired of hearing all the news about how overweight US children are? Then here's some good news to perk you up — it's getting better.

A recent report from the CDC found that obesity among low-income preschoolers decreased from 2008 to 2011.

In 18 states, the percentage of low-income preschoolers considered obese dropped, often by more than a full percentage point.

Obese preschoolers are more likely to be overweight or obese when they are older. Reducing the obesity rate among preschoolers could have significant effects on later obesity as these children grow up.

"Ask your pediatrician about healthy eating for your child."

This report, authored by Ashleigh L. May, PhD, and her colleagues at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at the rates of obesity among preschool children throughout the US.

The researchers used data about height and weight for 11.6 million children, aged 2 to 4, who came from low-income backgrounds in 40 states, Washington DC and two US territories.

The children were involved in the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System from 2008 to 2011.

Children who had a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for their age, based on year 2000 growth charts at the CDC, were considered obese.

BMI is a ratio of a person's height to weight. It is used to determine if someone has a healthy weight or not.

In considering the children's obesity based on BMI, the researchers took into account the children's age, sex and race/ethnicity.

The researchers found that the percentage of obese preschoolers dropped from 2008 to 2011 in 18 states and in the US Virgin Islands.

Although the percentage of obese preschoolers did increase in three states, it remained the same in 20 states and in Puerto Rico. The three states that saw an increase were Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

In the US Virgin Islands and in five states, the decrease was substantial, declining by at least a full percentage point. These states included Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota.

The researchers noted that continued efforts to prevent obesity are necessary to keep the trend headed downward and to expand policies that will help decrease childhood obesity.

Approximately 12 percent of US preschoolers, or one in every eight, is obese.

Among black children, the rate is higher at 19 percent, and among Hispanic children, it's 16 percent.

Having fewer obese preschoolers should translate to fewer obese older children. The CDC reports that obese preschoolers are five times more likely than normal-weight preschoolers to be overweight or obese as children or adults.

This report was published August 6 in Vital Signs, a section of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study was funded by the CDC. No disclosures were noted.

Review Date: 
August 8, 2013
Last Updated:
August 9, 2013