An updated study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that although obesity rates in children were dropping last decade, it’s now on the rise.
National data suggests that around 2.5% of preschool aged children were severely obese during 2020. Heidi Blanck of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the study’s authors, spoke on these discouraging findings:
“We were doing well and now we see this upward trend. We are dismayed at seeing these findings.”
The study itself collected data from 2 to 4-year-old children that are enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children program through the US Food and Nutrition Service. This particular program helps provide healthy foods and other services to low-income families with preschool children. As a part of the program and study, the children were both weighed and measured, according to the AP.
The researchers have collected data from the current and past decade from more than 1.6 million kids within the program. It found that in 2010, 2.1% of the children in the program were severely obese. In 2016 that percentage dropped to 1.8% but rose up to 2% by 2020; that’s roughly 33,000 out of the 1.6 million.
20 states across the country saw the most significant increases, with California having the highest rate at 2.8%. Among different racial and ethnic groups, Hispanic kids saw the highest increase as well at 2.8%.
Blanck stated that it’s not totally clear why these increases occurred. The initial drops in obesity rates were attributed to 2009 policy changes, including removing juice from infant food packages, reducing saturated fats in foods, and increasing accessibility to fruits and vegetables.
“The daily hardships that families living in poverty are facing may be harder today than they were 10 years ago, and the slight increases in the WIC package just weren’t enough,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a Duke University childhood obesity researcher.
Compared to last decade, the number of children in the WIC program has declined, and the data was also impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as researchers were still analyzing obesity rates when fewer parents were taking their children to the doctors.
“Despite its limitations, it was a very well done study. It gives you a hint of what’s going on,” said Deanna Hoelscher, a childhood obesity researcher at the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, concluding that the researchers are “thinking it’s going to get worse.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.