Experts doubt that obesity among preschoolers has fallen as much as the CDC reports based on a paucity of supporting evidence and few signs of behavioral change…
The CDC claims that there is a significant decline (43%) in preschooler (ages 2-5) obesity (Ogden, C et al JAMA February 2014). This data is based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES study which has been conducted annually since the 1960s and involves in-person interviews and physical exams. You need to have a healthy degree of skepticism about the validity of this finding. The 2011-2012 version of the survey included 9,120 people; 871 of them were 2 to 5 years old. This would be considered a small survey size to make such a bold national claim because of the statistical limitations and potential for marked fluctuations. Such a change is at best fleeting in that rates have bounced around over the last decade
Anti-obesity campaigners credited everything from changes to the federal nutrition program for low-income women and children to the elimination of trans-fats from fast food, more physical activity in child-care programs and declining consumption of sugary drinks. First Lady Michelle Obama and others seized on the finding as a sign that efforts to combat the national obesity epidemic were paying off. The programs that have been implemented, from changing what’s in vending machines to the Let’s Move program (exercise initiative championed by Michelle Obama), target school-age children more than preschoolers.
This plunge may be a statistical fluke since other studies have not shown a comparable decline
A study of preschoolers in the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, which provides food vouchers, nutrition classes and counseling to low-income families, found virtually no change in obesity rates. The WIC study included more than 200,000 children while the CDC research looked at only a small population of 2 – 5 year olds. A larger set of data would most certainly be significantly more valuable.
Researchers found that the prevalence of obesity among 3 and 4 year olds in California’s Los Angeles County worsened from 2003 – 2011. Obesity rose from 17% to 20.4% (CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013). There was a drop of 4% (19.5% – 15.5%) in the New York WIC study, though much less than a 43% drop CDC reported nationally. CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013). An earlier CDC study of data collected at public health clinics, reported in JAMA in December 2012, found that the prevalence of obesity among 27.2 million children 2-to-4-year olds in low-income families fell (< 1%) to 14.9 percent in 2010 from 15.2 percent in 2003.
For obesity rates to drop, young children would have to eat differently, become more active, and sleep better. It turns out that research shows few signs of these changes among 2 – 5 year olds. In 2010 Whaley and her colleagues examined the effectiveness of WIC classes and counseling to encourage healthy eating and activities for women and children in the program. Television watching and consumption of sweet or salty snacks actually rose, while fruit and vegetable consumption fell – changes that could lead to weight gain. One positive was a rise in physical activity.
These statistical arguments emphasize decades of futility on behalf of the CDC, USDA and other government agencies that are determined to get under control the wrong enemy…WEIGHT. The problem may be part and parcel of the American Government expending too much energy, time and tax dollars on the ‘weights’ of preschool and young children by emphasizing statistical analysis of weight change and promoting the media hype that fuels a nation of dieters and creates a general obsession with being thin. There needs to be an acceptance of size diversity, emphasis on health, and incorporating lifestyle activity combined with appropriate measurements that support these initiatives rather than focusing on the weight on the scale. Habit changes should take the form of personal responsibility, mindful behaviors, stress reduction and reducing negative bias regarding size to counter the food industries’ infinite supplying our nation with an abundance of highly palatable foods designed to trigger overconsumption. If we cannot expect our country to limit the use of proven mind altering drugs such as marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine; do we honestly believe that there will ever be a successful campaign to remove pleasurable food choices from society? Not even in the Fairy Tale of Cinderella could they remove all the spinning wheels.
- CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013
- (Ogden, C et al JAMA February 2014)
- Whaley, S (Public Health Enterprises Foundation) WIC Study
Ogden Journal of the American Medical Association 2014 focused on more than 9,000 adults and children in 2011-2012 and compared them to five previous obesity analyses dating back to 2003-04 We found overall that there was no change in youth or adults More older women are obese, but very young children seem to be slimming down Prevalence of obesity in children that age dipped from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to about 8 percent in 2011-2012 obesity prevalence ticked up in women 60 and older, from less than 32 percent in 2003-2004 to more than 38 percent in 2011-2012. Overall, more than two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, and more than 6 percent are extremely obese. There hasn’t been a big impact on prevalence in the last eight years, but at least there’s a leveling off.