For once, there's good news when it comes to childhood obesity. More specifically, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report explaining that these rates are decreasing across a number of U.S. states.1 This was discovered after researchers reviewed data from 12 million children ages 2 to 4 who participated in federally-funded nutrition programs in 40 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
It was found that of the 40 states, only three saw an increase in childhood obesity, based on this research. These included:
Although there were plenty of states – 21 to be exact – that saw no change in these numbers, 19 experienced slight decreases from 2008 to 2011.2 Some of these states were:
- New York
- New Jersey
The CDC indicates that childhood obesity remains an issue because of the number of preschoolers who fall into this category. When becoming a problem so early in childhood, it's even more difficult to turn around as a kid ages.
Soda and juice are key triggers for obesity
There have been a number of studies that have found supporting evidence for a link between sugary drinks and obesity. For children, these mainly include soda and juice. Based on information collected from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, researchers found that kids age 2 who drank more than one sugar-sweetened beverage daily were more likely to have greater body mass index – which related to obesity – by age 4.3
However, the doctors who conducted this investigation are upbeat regarding the potential to turn things around when it comes to childhood obesity. There are a number of things that parents, child care providers, schools doctors and even national and local governments can do to turn things around.
Preventing childhood obesity
Some of the basics the CDC recommends for treating and preventing childhood obesity include:4
- Providing quality meals for children at school, including appealing food and beverage options.
- Including physical education as a regular part of all children's routines, including gym classes, recess and sports at school as well as activities at home.
- Offering free water to children on school premises and at extracurricular activities and reducing the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in these locations and in households.
- Building community areas where children and safe, free and encouraged to participate in physical activity with other kids in the neighborhood at parks and playgrounds.
More importantly, parents play a key role in providing the necessary means for the prevention of childhood obesity. It's key that moms and dads across the country are well educated regarding how to ensure that their kids maintain healthy lifestyles. This can be as simple as:
- Starting the day out right with a nutritious breakfast.
- Serving plenty of fruits and vegetables during meals and snacks, even for picky eaters.
- Eating healthy yourself, in order to set a good example for children.
- Limiting time spent watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet, so that more time can be put toward getting outdoors and burning calories.
- Encouraging children to be active on a regular basis through supporting participation in a variety of extracurricular activities and sports.
Parents should pay attention to what their children's interests are. If they turn their noses up to broccoli but enjoy raw carrots, make this a regular snack-time treat. Kids who like to play tag may be more interested in joining the track and field team than the baseball team.
1 CNN Health, "Many states and US territories are showing decreases in childhood obesity" August 6, 2013
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Progress on childhood obesity" August 2013
3 CNN Health, "Study: Kids who drink soda, juice weigh more" August 5, 2013
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Combating childhood obesity" September 23, 2013