Drop in obese US toddlers on government-assisted food plan: 13% fewer preschoolers on WIC are dangerously overweight, report finds
- In 2010, nearly 16 percent of preschoolers between two and four enrolled in the US food voucher program were obese
- By 2016, only 14 percent were obese, following 2014 changes to the WIC food assistance program to help low-income families access to healthy food
- It’s the second drop reported by the CDC, suggesting that the turning tide is not a fluke
At last, one group of Americans is trending away from obesity, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests.
In 2010, 16 percent of children between two and four whose families benefit from the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition (WIC) program were obese.
By 2016, just 14 percent were considered obese, according to the new report, released Monday.
It’s the second report to show a decline, giving health officials some hope that the tide may really be turning, and that prior findings were neither flukes nor the results of skewed data.
The rate of obesity fell from 16% to 14% from 2010 to 2016 among two- to four-year-old children on government food assistance programs that were recently revised to provide better access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables to low income families (file)
The whole country is and continues to be in the midst of an obesity epidemic.
Over 18 percent of children are obese. Nearly 40 percent of adults are obese (and two-thirds are overweight), and our diets are high in processed, fatty, sugary foods and lacking in fruits vegetables and fish.
It’s just gotten worse and worse, year over year, for virtually every group, whether separated by age, race, social economic status, region or sex.
Except, that is, among a surprising group: the youngest, poorest children.
As of 2010 (the latest data), 15.9 percent of US children between two and four and enrolled in the government-subsidized WIC program were obese.
That number had fallen to 13.9 percent by 2016.
Rates of overweight preschoolers enrolled in the program appear to be falling, too.
Combined, 32.5 percent of two- to four-year-olds were either overweight or obese in 2010, compared to 29.1 percent in 2016.
Similar declines were previously reported over the 2008-2011 period.
The shift in this group is meaningful for the future of this generation’s health for two reasons.
For one, studies have show that a child’s weight by the time they reach kindergarten is predictive of their obesity risks down the road.
Second, children from low income families are often at elevated risks of obesity because inexpensive but time-efficient food – including fast food and many frozen and instant meals are high in calories, carbs and sugars and lacking real nutrition.
Last month, an NIH study became the first to show that a diet of these highly-processed foods not only raises risks of but causes over-eating and weight-gain.
In an unprecedented effort to curb alarming increases in childhood obesity, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014 finalized its first sweeping revisions to the food included in WIC packages since 1980.
The program is available to women and children in the US who are living at 185 percent of the national poverty line, based on household income and number and ages of children.
Qualifying families are given vouchers to help them pay for certain pre-approved foods from participating stores.
In 2014, the USDA’s changes made fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy for women, babies and children easier for families to buy.
Encouraging the purchase of these healthier foods has paid off considerably, the new study suggests.