Although the battle of the bulge for the nation's young people is not over, a new study shows improvement in exercise and diet habits among youth, reported Fox News on September 16. Researchers conducted surveys and reported that kids and teens are reducing their time watching television while increasing their fitness and quality of their diets.
Trends contributing to a leveling off (but not a decrease) in childhood obesity rates include more young people taking time for breakfast and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to the study.
“I would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an effect, because that seems to be a pattern,” said Ronald Iannotti, the lead author on the study from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“The fact that (obesity) is leveling off, that’s a surprise and a major change from the steady increase that we’ve seen over time,” Iannotti, who worked on the study while at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, said. “This is great news.”
He and co-author Jing Wang described the trends as "encouraging," citing discoveries that included:
- Kids reported an increase in the number of days devoted to being physically active for at least 60 minutes.
- Teens and children said that they ate breakfast more often.
- Youth spent less time watching TV.
- Kids and teens ate more fruits and vegetables.
- And in a boost for First Lady Michelle Obama, who just kick-started a campaign to get the nation to drink more water (click here for the dish), both kids and teens are reducing their consumption of soft drinks as well as sweets.
However, the proportion of survey participants who were overweight or obese remained steady. But experts described that statistic as hopeful.
"This is encouraging, because at least it looks like things have kind of stabilized, and at least they're not going in the wrong direction," Marian Huhman, who studies health communication and health campaigns at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said.
She predicts that obesity levels will drop based on the study results, contending that it may take some time.
"Maybe it just takes a few years for the outcomes of obesity changes to follow from the behavioral changes," she added.
But lead researcher Iannotti emphasized that more improvements are needed. Teens and children should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. And we're looking at one or two," he said. "There's still vast room for improvement."