Waistlines of U.S. Kids Seem to Be Holding Steady

But too many children and teens remain obese, experts say

MONDAY, July 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The proportion of kids aged 2 to 18 who are classified as obese, based on their waist size, held steady at nearly 18 percent from 2003 to 2012, according to a report published online July 21 in Pediatrics.

For the study, Lyn Steffen, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues collected data on more than 16,600 children and teens, aged 2 to 18, who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

They found that, in 2012, almost 18 percent of children and teens were abdominally obese based on waist size. Abdominal obesity fell significantly among children aged 2 to 5 years during that time frame, the study found. Among those aged 6 to 18, about 33 percent were abdominally obese when the ratio between height and weight was considered, the researchers said. The rate of obesity remained constant from 2003 to 2012 and was independent of sex, race, age, or ethnicity.

Steffen credits the leveling off of childhood obesity largely to healthier school breakfasts and lunches and the removal of soda and candy from schools. Many vending machines now offer healthier alternatives.

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