The United States is not making any progress towards lowering childhood obesity rates, a new study says, contradicting previous reports that the fat epidemic has slowed down.
In fact, there has been a leap in obesity among the country’s youngest kids, according to the latest analysis of government data, NPR reports.
Asheley Skinner, associate professor of population health services at Duke University and lead author on this analysis, said,
The main take-home message for me is that, clearly, obesity remains a problem. It’s not improving.
Childhood obesity numbers have been on the rise for decades, triggering concerns among public health officials and researchers. Obese children generally grow up to become obese adults, making them prone to numerous health problems, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
There was a glimmer of hope a few years ago that obesity rates may be decreasing, at least in some parts of the nation, with some scientists crediting efforts such as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
However, Skinner and colleagues found that the latest federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that the percentage of kids ages two to 19 who are obese went up from 14% in 1999 to 18.5% in 2015 and 2016.
There were no differences in the obesity rates for 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, disproving that obesity has seen a decline.
Most disturbingly, the largest jump in numbers was for children ages two to five years, where obesity went from 9% to almost 14%.
Skinner said, “It is a big jump. That’s the highest level of obesity that we’ve seen in 2- to 5-year olds since 1999. Obesity in the youngest group is a concern, because when obesity starts younger, most of these children continue to have obesity throughout childhood and into adulthood. The earlier you start seeing this, the harder it is to address it for these kids.”
The study was published in Pediatrics.