A new study has found that childhood obesity in the United States continues to rise. Not only that, the data suggests that kids are becoming obese at increasingly younger ages. Think, fat babies. The study, which was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, concluded that while it may seem as if parents are more health-conscious than ever, it’s not having a noticeable effect on their children’s weight.
“The main take-home message is that, clearly, obesity remains a problem,” says Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of population health services at Duke University and the lead researcher of the study. “It’s not improving.”
With kids eating more fast food and exercising less, childhood obesity has been on the rise in America for the last several decades, causing panic in the health community. Many had hoped, however, that as parents became more aware of the problem we would see a drop in obesity in U.S. children. Unfortunately, when Skinner and her colleagues analyzed the latest national data from Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that the percentage of children ages 2-19 who are obese increased from 14 percent in 1999 to 18.5 percent in 2015-2016. There was no apparent reversal in the trend line.
Even more troubling, according to Skinner, was that the data revealed an increase in obesity among two to five-year-olds; it jumped from nine percent all the way to 14 percent. “Obesity in the youngest group is a concern because when it starts younger, most of these children continue to have obesity issues throughout childhood and into adulthood,” Skinner says. “The earlier you start seeing this, the harder it is to address it for these kids.” Children who are obese are far more likely to become obese adults, which can lead to a myriad of severe health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.