Progress in the Fight against Childhood Obesity

Recent reports suggest the nation has made progress in the fight against the epidemic of obesity, particularly in younger children, according to a commentary authored by William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, the director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, and Christina Economos, PhD, of Tufts University. The authors point out that after a consistent increase starting in 1980, the prevalence of obesity in 2 to 5 year olds has started to level off.

Researchers have yet to pinpoint the underlying reason for the progress in young children but the authors highlight some trends that might be helping in the battle against unhealthy weight gain. They point out that between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 the daily intake of sugar drinks declined by 68 calories in 2 to 5 year olds and by 71 calories in 6-11 year olds. At about the same time, the caloric intake of fast food decreased by 64 calories among 2-11 year olds.

Research reports have increasingly linked fast food and sugar drinks to unhealthy weight gain in both adults and children. But the recent drop in consumption of such products suggests that the public health message is starting to sink in. In the commentary, Dietz and his coauthor say that if such trends continue the nation might see additional declines in obesity among older children and teens.

The commentary, “Progress in the Control of Childhood Obesity,” was published online Feb. 9, 2015 in the journal Pediatrics.