ATLANTA – Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the rate of obesity among children ages 2 to 5 years declined significantly. Obesity prevalence for the age group went from nearly 14% in 2003-2004 to just over 8% in 2011-2012, a decline of 43%, according to the C.D.C.’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

The research was published Feb. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association and does not specifically compare 2009-2010 with 2011-2012, but NHANES data does show a decline in the 2- to 5-year-old age group during that time period – from just over 12% in 2009-2010 to just over 8% in 2011-2012.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the C.D.C. “This report comes on the heels of previous C.D.C. data that found a significant decline in obesity prevalence among low-income children aged 2 to 4 years participating in federal nutrition programs. We’ve also seen signs from communities around the country with obesity prevention programs including Anchorage, Alaska, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Washington. This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic.”
Reasons for the decline in the obesity rates among children were not outlined in the study, but it was noted many child care centers have improved their nutrition and physical activity standards in the past few years. In addition, the C.D.C. said its data showed decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years. Another possible factor, according to the study, may be the improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breastfed children.