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Obesity in children down 43 percent

Obesity rates are down for preschoolers, says a new study. You can check out the news about this research in a news article by James A. Foley, "Obesity Rates in Young US Children Down 43 Percent," published February 26, 2014 in Nature World News.

Child obesity prevalence drops by 43%
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the lead author of the report, which is published online today, February 26, 2014 in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. You also can check out the abstract of the study, "Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012."

The study reports that overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance

More than one-third of adults and 17% of youth in the United States are obese, although the prevalence remained stable between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010, the study's abstract notes. The research provided the most recent national estimates of childhood obesity by analyzing trends in childhood obesity between 2003 and 2012, and provide detailed obesity trend analyses among adults.

Do dads influence what preschoolers eat? Also, you may want to see another study or its abstract, "Dads at the dinner table. A cross-sectional study of Australian fathers’ child feeding perceptions and practices, published in the journal Appetite. And if you're wondering whether preschoolers develop food addiction at that age or later, you may wish to check out the study or its abstract also published in the journal Appetite, "Interrelationships among impulsive personality traits, food addiction, and Body Mass Index."

In the study, "Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers measured the weight and height or recumbent length in 9120 participants in the 2011-2012 nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts.

In adults, obesity was defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Analyses of trends in high weight for recumbent length or obesity prevalence were conducted overall and separately by age across 5 periods (2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, 2009-2010, and 2011-2012), the study's abstract explained.

Overeating learned in infancy, another new study suggests

If you look at another study on whether overeating is learned in infancy, researchers found that in the long run, encouraging a baby to finish the last ounce in their bottle might be doing more harm than good. Though the calories soon burn off, a bad habit remains. Brigham Young University sociology professors Ben Gibbs and Renata Forste found that clinical obesity at 24 months of age strongly traces back to infant feeding. You may wish to check out the article, "BYU prof, undergrads team with Harvard and Stanford to show how breastfeeding protects newborns."

“If you are overweight at age two, it puts you on a trajectory where you are likely to be overweight into middle childhood and adolescence and as an adult,” said Forste, according to a February 26, 2014 news release, Overeating learned in infancy, study suggests. “That’s a big concern.” You also may wish to read the article, "Research shows how poor diet slows down metabolism."

The BYU researchers analyzed data from more than 8,000 families and found that babies predominantly fed formula were 2.5 times more likely to become obese toddlers than babies who were breastfed for the first six months. But, the study authors argue, this pattern is not just about breastfeeding. You also can check out the article, "New breastfeeding study shows most moms quit early."

“There seems to be this cluster of infant feeding patterns that promote childhood obesity,” said Gibbs, lead author of the study that appears in the journal Pediatric Obesity. You may also wish to check out the article, "Overeating learned in infancy, study suggests."

Putting babies to bed with a bottle increased the risk of childhood obesity by 36 percent. And introducing solid foods too soon – before four months of age – increased a child’s risk of obesity by 40 percent. “Developing this pattern of needing to eat before you go to sleep, those kinds of things discourage children from monitoring their own eating patterns so they can self-regulate,” Forste said, according to the news release. You also may wish to see the article, "BYU study says exercise may reduce motivation for food."

Forste said that the nature of breastfeeding lends itself to helping babies recognize when they feel full and should stop. But that same kind of skill can be developed by formula-fed infants

“You can still do things even if you are bottle feeding to help your child learn to regulate their eating practices and develop healthy patterns,” Forste said in the news release. “When a child is full and pushes away, stop! Don’t encourage them to finish the whole bottle.”

Breastfeeding rates are lowest in poor and less educated families. Sally Findley, a public health professor at Columbia University, says the new BYU study shows that infant feeding practices are the primary reason that childhood obesity hits hardest below the poverty line.

“Bottle feeding somehow changes the feeding dynamic, and those who bottle feed, alone or mixed with some breastfeeding, are more likely to add cereal or sweeteners to their infant’s bottle at an early age, even before feeding cereal with a spoon,” said Findley, according to the news release. The next project for Gibbs and Forste is to reevaluate the link between breastfeeding and cognitive development in childhood. Forste has previously published research about why women stop breastfeeding. You can listen to her discuss that topic with The New York Times in this podcast.

“The health community is looking to the origins of the obesity epidemic, and more and more, scholars are looking toward early childhood,” Gibbs said. “I don’t think this is some nascent, unimportant time period. It’s very critical.” You may also wish to see another article, "Birth order study: It's about time."

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