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US kids: fat but not fatter

American kids are fat. But at least they don’t seem to be getting any fatter.

A major study published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that 16.3% of kids aged between 2 and 19 were either at or above the 95th percentile on BMI-for-age growth charts between 2003 and 2006. That’s a science-y way of saying they’re too damn big – they meet one of the definitions of paediatric obesity.

Over the same period, 31.9% were at or above the 85th percentile and 11.3% were at or above the 97th percentile.

However, the study didn’t find any significant trend between 1999 and 2006.

“After 25 years of extraordinarily bad news about childhood obesity, this study provides a glimmer of hope,” says David Ludwig, director of the childhood obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston (NY Times). “But it’s much too soon to know whether this is a true plateau in prevalence or just a temporary lull.”

In an editorial running alongside the study, Ludwig and Cara Ebbeling reiterate that after “years of unremittingly bad news” it is too early to know whether this shows a real plateau or just a statistical aberration.

“…On one point there is no uncertainty,” they write, “without substantial declines in prevalence, the public health toll of childhood obesity will continue to mount, because it can take many years for an obese child to develop life-threatening complications.”

Lead author of the new study Cynthia Ogden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Bloomberg she was waiting on the 2007-2008 numbers, due at the end of 2009 or early 2010.

“If it shows this levelling-off trend, we can be more comfortable saying that it’s levelling off. There’s some reason to be cautiously optimistic,” she says.

More coverage

Child obesity epidemic seen leveling off – ABC (with video)

Child Obesity Rate Levels Off – Time

US child obesity may be stabilizing after huge rise: study – AFP

Obesity battle among US children may have peaked – AP


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