Good news in the fight against childhood obesity — chubby babies are on the decline, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at children up to the age of 2 years old who were enrolled in The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a nutrition assistance program for low-income women and children. About half of all babies in the U.S. are enrolled in the program.
The number of obese youngsters fell from 15 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2014, the study found.
The decline in obesity was prevalent in all age groups studied. The lowest being about 8 percent in 2014 for infants between 3 and 5 months old, while obesity was at a 15 percent rate among toddlers.
“People are thrilled,” David Freedman, the study’s lead author and CDC researcher said.
Freedman explained that the reason for the decline is uncertain, but the results do correspond with changes to improve nutrition and health in food packages. Additionally, breastfeeding has gone up among the study’s participating women since 2009, which can help protect against obesity.
Other CDC data shows a similar decline in childhood obesity in the U.S. among kids ages 2 to 5 years old, which coincides with the national campaign targeting childhood obesity. In general, obesity rates are higher in low-income families.
“It’s too soon to tell whether these new data represent a statistical fluke or evidence of real progress with the pediatric obesity epidemic,” Dr. David Ludwig, director of obesity prevention at Boston Children’s Hospital told the Associated Press.
The researchers studied data from WIC surveys between 2000 and 2014, which involved nearly 17 million infants and young children. They found that obesity rates increased early on, however they stabilized from 2004 to 2010, until the recent decline.
Doctors don’t typically categorize babies as obese, rather they consider the weight to length ratio to determine whether an infant is overweight. The babies with high ratios — generally heavier than 95 percent of their peers — have an increased chance of becoming obese.
The study, however, did not track the babies to see if they became obese later on.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.