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Are Childhood Obesity Rates Dropping?

Study says obesity rates in toddlers are finally declining.
Photograph by Getty Images/Hemera

Looks like the FLOTUS's Let's Move! campaign may deserve a good pat on the back. Or at least something does. According to a new study, the obesity rates of preschoolers are finally beginning to decline—for the first time in literally decades.

Now before we get too excited, the dip wasn't all that huge—it was somewhere between 1 and 2 percent and only among 1- and 2-year-olds. Plus, the decline was only spotted in 19 different states and a few U.S. territories from 2008 to 2011. Some states—like Texas, Utah, and Louisiana—couldn't even be factored into the study, since they didn't have consistent data. And, it should be noted, that some of those states just so happen to be home to some of our biggest waistlines. (Ahem, we're looking at you, Texas...)

Still, the director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Friedan, remains cautiously optimistic. "Although obesity remains [an] epidemic, the tide has begun to turn, for some kids in some states," he said in a statement.

By far, the largest drop was seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the obesity rates of preschoolers declined by a good 2.6 percent. As for the states with the biggest declines, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota were the top-five biggest losers.

Twenty states, plus Puerto Rico, saw no change at all in their preschool obesity rates during the study, while three states—Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee—actually had increases in obesity rates, though it was less than 1 percent.

But while the dip may be slight, and limited to certain parts of the country, at least we're trending positively at last. The study isn't crediting the improvements to any one change so far, but it could be tied to our overall increased awareness about health and nutrition, reduced screen time and a rise in breast-feeding rates.

Either way, the CDC is quick to point out that we still have a lot more work left to do—like making it easier for families and children to buy healthy food, helping schools open more gyms and playgrounds and emphasizing safe physical activity.

Want to learn more about the study? It will be published later this week in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Stay tuned!

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