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Youth-Obesity Rate Plunged by 43 Percent Over Past Decade, CDC Finds

The obesity rate for U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 5 plunged 43 percent over the past decade, according to new data published online Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Based on data from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased from 14 percent in 2003-04 to just over 8 percent in 2011-12. In total, 871 youths among that age range were included in the study (432 males and 439 females).

"We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping, said Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, in a statement. "This report comes on the heels of previous CDC data that found a significant decline in obesity prevalence among low-income children aged 2 to 4 years participating in federal nutrition programs."

The tide hasn't turned for all ages, however. The CDC found no significant decline in obesity rate for children between the ages of 2 and 19, or adults between 2003-04 and 2011-12.

Well and Good

Two years ago, 31.8 percent of youths ages 2 to 19 were considered either overweight or obese and 16.9 percent were obese. In terms of sheer numbers, that loosely translates to 12 million obese children and 23 million who could be classified as overweight or obese. (Those figures were publicized last year in a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.)

The findings regarding 2- to 5-year-olds should be considered particularly encouraging for two reasons. First, previous research has suggested that overweight and obese youths are far more likely to be overweight or obese as adults compared to normal-weight children. By nipping obesity in the bud at an early age, there's a greater likelihood that children will grow up to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.

Additionally, according to a meta-analysis published online earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics, parents are more likely to underestimate the weight of their obese children in that age range. According to one of the studies reviewed in that analysis, "parents of young children believe their children will eventually 'grow out' of the excess weight."

First lady Michelle Obama, who's Let's Move! Initiative is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month, was encouraged by the latest findings.

"I am thrilled at the progress we've made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans," said the first lady in a statement.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama unveiled new rules that aim to shield students from junk-food advertising during the school day, according to my colleague Alyssa Morones.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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