Dietitian: Drop in childhood obesity shows efforts are working
March 5, 2014
The significant drop
in childhood obesity rates in America is a sign that nutrition education
measures are working, according to a University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty
The obesity rate
among children ages two to five fell 43 percent in the last 10 years, according
to a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2004, 14 percent
of U.S. children ages two to five were obese. The study published Feb. 26 in
the Journal of the American Medical Association said that number had dropped to
about 8 percent.
The rate is
considered a bellwether of sorts because young children who are obese are five
times more likely to be obese as adults.
obesity and programs aimed at fighting it are having an impact on parents, said
Karen Ostenso, a registered dietitian and director of the dietetics bachelor's
degree program at UW-Stout.
"Parents with young
children are more aware of the importance of nutritious eating and regular
activity and play," Ostenso said. "These results bode well for the future of
these children and our nation's fight against the obesity epidemic."
consumers are more aware of nutrition issues when choosing foods, that the
nutritional quality of food has improved and that more nutrition information is
available to consumers.
there has been an increase in the percentage of women breastfeeding, which is
associated with decreased levels of childhood obesity," she said.
As early as 2000, public health officials began sounding the
alarm over childhood obesity, Ostensosaid. Changes to the Women, Infants and Children federal program, the
Let's Move! campaign promoted by first lady Michelle Obama and the Farmers
Market Nutrition Program all have helped, Ostenso believes.
Another such program is the Energy Balance 4 Kids with Play
from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In Wisconsin, two childhood obesity initiatives, Active
Early and Healthy Bites, were developed for early care education professionals to
help develop nutritious meals and incorporate age-appropriate physical activity
so that children develop lifelong healthy habits, Ostenso said.
Young children at the Child and Family Study Center on
UW-Stout's campus receive fruit but not fruit juice, for example. Their
breakfast and snack menus are developed by a UW-Stout dietetics student working
closely with the center's professional staff. A registered dietitian from
University Dining Services develops the children's lunch menu, according to
center Director Judy Gifford.
In 2007 an
expert panel made seven recommendations to help reduce obesity in children,
Ostenso said. They were:
- Limiting consumption of
- Consuming recommended
quantities of fruits and vegetables, nine per day with serving size
varying by age
- Limiting television and
other screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no
television viewing before age two and no more than two hours of screen
time per day after age two.
- Eating breakfast daily
- Limiting eating out at
restaurants, particularly fast food restaurants
- Encouraging family meals
in which parents and children eat together. Family meals are associated
with a higher-quality diet and with lower obesity prevalence, as well as
with other psychosocial benefits. Modeling good eating habits and regular
activity is important with this age group.
- Limiting portion size,
according to USDA recommendations.
Students in the
dietetics program at UW-Stout take several courses related to childhood
nutrition. In Maternal and Child Nutrition, students develop "competency
in childhood nutrition at each developmental stage of growth, as well as
assessing and managing nutritional needs based on sound scientific evidence,"
Another course, Community Nutrition, focuses on public
health policy and programs in addition to federal guidelines that impact
childhood nutrition, Ostenso said.
The CDC report is
encouraging, Ostenso said, but there is plenty of work to do.
"It will be important to continue to monitor obesity trends
in the United States among all age groups. Managing obesity is complex, and
data is needed to provide evidence that progress is being made and progress is
sustainable," she said.
For more information
on the UW-Stout dietetics program, go to the website.