Almost one in five children in the United States is obese, according to the latest national data.
The news is disappointing, given programs across the country that have been trying to reduce childhood obesity for years, an expert said.
“We really hoped and hoped to see trends decrease,” said Dr. Tannaz Moin, an obesity scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Obesity, which means not only excess weight, but serious excess weight, is one of the main public health problems in the country. Adult obesity has been on the rise as well, but childhood obesity is especially troubling because it can leave children on the path to conditions like diabetes and heart disease, he said.
The findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come from a health survey that measures the height and weight of participants. The most recent data is from surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018, when more than 2,800 children participated.
The study concluded that 19.3% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 were obese. That is slightly higher than the 18.5% recorded in the 2015-2016 national poll. The increase is not considered statistically significant, implying that there is a mathematical possibility that the rates did not rise.
But it continues an upward trend since the 2005-2006 report, when 15.4% of American children were obese.
The percentage of children who are severely obese remains 6%, as it has been for several years, the CDC said.
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Various factors contribute to childhood obesity, including consuming too much processed food and sugary drinks, in addition to lack of exercise.
The current coronavirus crisis, with school closings and orders to stay home, doesn’t help, Moin said.
“Most children are at home doing even less physical activity,” he said. “We could see worse trends in the coming years, especially if the pandemic continues as it is,” he said.
The CDC released the findings last month on the back cover of one of its publications.