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Study Finds 1 in 5 Obese Among 4-year-olds

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KDRV: A striking new study says almost 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese. Researchers were surprised to see differences by race at so early an age.

Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.

The lead author said that rate is worrisome among children so young, even in a population at higher risk for obesity because of other health problems and economic disadvantages.

"The magnitude of these differences was larger than we expected, and it is surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood," said Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher. She conducted the research with Temple University's Dr. Robert Whitaker.

Dr. Glenn Flores, a pediatrics and public health professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said the research is an important contribution to studies documenting racial and ethnic disparities in children's weight.

"The cumulative evidence is alarming because within just a few decades, America will become a 'minority majority' nation," he said. Without interventions, the next generation "will be at very high risk" for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, joint diseases and other problems connected with obesity, said Flores, who was not involved in the new research.

The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001. Children were measured in their homes and were part of a study conducted by the government's National Center for Education Statistics. The results appear in Monday's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jen April 7, 2009, 1:14 PM

I think that a lot of the problem is that parents are killing the fun of playtime exercise. When I was a kid I would run and play with my cousins until the sun set and I had a blast doing it. Now, thanks to the overly organized soccer and t-ball games it feels like a stressful chore. Part of me also wonders if some of the obesity ‘epidemic’ isn’t exaggerted too. I work with preschoolers every summer and I can count on one hand how many have been overweight, much less full-blown obese.

Beth in SF April 7, 2009, 1:17 PM

Fast food, video games, corn syrup and lack of parental involvement.

Mother Shaffer April 7, 2009, 3:01 PM

I try not to over schedule my kid and deliberately sign her up for only one sport activity per season. But, I have to say, since all her friends are in all those activities, it’s hard to find someone to play with after school. And on top of that, if my kid wants to ride her bike around the neighborhood, I feel terribly guilty and afraid someone might grab her off the street. Organized activity seems the only option.

Jenny April 7, 2009, 6:59 PM

I know everyone always blames the parents, but sometimes it really isn’t out fault. My five year old is a “big” kid. It seems like no matter what I do, he is contantly focused on food. I have him on an eating schedule… Breakfast, a snack at 10, lunch, snack at 3, then dinner. He can’t tell time yet, but he knows when those hours are because he knows he gets to eat. I made sure he plays outside as much as possible. We even went so far as to get a Wii with Wii Fit so that he can still play video games and get excersize at the same time. But he still thinks of food constantly. It’s like he’s hardwired to think of food.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 5:42 PM

Good site! Good to read. I just have a observation to submit about t-shirts.

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