US & Canada

New Jama study: US toddler obesity rate plummets

Children run in Marietta, Georgia, on 21 August 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption The drop in childhood obesity was in part put down to higher incidence of breastfeeding and lower consumption of sugary beverages

The obesity rate among young US children has fallen by 43% since 2003-2004, the first broad decline in years, a new national study has found.

Obesity among US children ages two to five dropped to 8.4% in 2011-2012 from 13.9%, the survey found.

Scientists have not identified an exact cause but say a decrease in sugary beverage consumption may contribute.

Childhood obesity has been shown to increase risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease and stroke later in life.

'Exciting' findings

The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) on Tuesday.

"This is the first time we've seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group," author Cynthia Ogden told the New York Times, describing the finding as "exciting".

The study weighed and measured an estimated 9,100 people, including nearly 600 infants and toddlers, in 2011 and 2012.

Greater rates of breastfeeding and less consumption of high-calorie drinks have been posited as two possible causes for the decline.

Overall, however, the survey found no significant changes in obesity rates of older youth or adults over the study period.

Such rates continue to remain high, with a third of US children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults considered obese or overweight.

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