Obesity affects some 12.5 million U.S. children and teens, or about 17 percent of that population. The incidence of childhood obesity as been rising steadily since the 1960s, when it was around 5 percent.
But according to a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity rates appear to have leveled off in the few years. That's the good news. The bad news is there is a significant increase in obesity among the heavier boys, with the heaviest getting heavier. In addition, there are significant differences between racial, ethnic and age groups. Hispanic boys and non-Hispanic black girls, for example, are more likely to be obese. So are older children and teens, compared to preschoolers.
CDC researchers warn that severe overweight in youngsters can lead to psychological problems and medical risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes. They point to a decline in healthy eating and exercise as primary determinants of obesity. So they recommend a multipronged strategy of encouraging more exercise, less television watching, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and less of high-caloric foods.