childrenThe obesity rate among American children aged 2 to 5 years dropped sharply from 2003-04 to 2011-12, from 14 percent to just over eight percent.

Those encouraging figures come from the latest CDC obesity data, published in the February 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. 

Federal nutrition programs may be a factor in the change; the 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 who participated in such programs.

“We’ve also seen signs from communities around the country with obesity prevention programs including Anchorage, Alaska, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Washington,” said Frieden. “This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

While the precise reasons for the change are not clear, the CDC said that in the past few years:

  • many child care centers have improved their nutrition and physical activity standards
  • the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth has decreased, and
  • the rate of breastfeeding -- which is beneficial to staving off obesity – has risen in the U.S.

“I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans,” said Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America. “With the participation of kids, parents, and communities in Let’s Move! these last four years,  healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm.”

CDC data shows no significant changes in obesity prevalence among 2-19 year olds or adults in the United States between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.