Washington — While adults and older children continue to struggle with obesity, America's chubby infants and tubby toddlers appear to be slimming down.
The prevalence of obesity among U.S. children ages 2- to 5-years-old has fallen from 14 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 8.4 percent in 2011 and 2012 - roughly a 43-percent decline, according new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But one in three U.S. adults - 33 percent - and one in six young people ages 2-19 - or 17 percent - are still considered obese, according to the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
In fact, obesity rates for older adults increased from 31 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 35.4 percent in 2011 and 2012. Women aged 60 and older fueled the increase, with obesity rates jumping from 31.5 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 38.1 percent in 2011 and 2012, the survey found.
What's behind the falling obesity rates for children and toddlers is unclear, but they could reflect efforts by child care centers to improve nutrition and physical activity standards as well as a decline in consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and other beverages.
The CDC suggests that increased breastfeeding rates could also be helping since the activity helps stave off obesity in breastfed children.
Obesity prevention programs in cities like Anchorage, Alaska, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Washington (Seattle) could also be playing a role said, CDC director Tom Frieden.
First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Lets Move! program works to increase physical activity among America's youngsters, hailed the new survey findings.
"I am thrilled at the progress we've made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans," Mrs. Obama said. "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."
Frieden was equally optimistic.
"We continue to see signs that for some children in this country, the scales are tipping," Frieden said. "This report comes on the heels of previous CDC data that found a significant delcine in obesity prevalence among low-income children (ages 2- to 4-years-old) participating in federal nutrition programs...This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic."
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