Despite hyperbolic rhetoric that the U.S. is doomed to spend billions and billions of dollars on obesity unless the government outlaws “junk food,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report yesterday showing childhood obesity rates are on the decline among the preschool-age children of low-income families. Yes, you read that right – kids today are actually getting thinner, not fatter.
As the New York Times reports, “Tuesday’s report [from the CDC] covered the period from 2008 to 2011 and offered what researchers said was the clearest evidence to date that the obesity epidemic may be turning a corner for 2- to 4-year-old children from low-income families.” The report “included data from 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. . . . with only 3 states experiencing increases and 19 showing declines.” This reverses the trend observed in 2009, wherein 24 states experienced increases and only 9 showed declines.
So, what caused these declines in obesity? Researchers offered a variety of hypotheses, including increased breastfeeding, fewer calories consumed, increased parental education, exercising more, eating healthier meals, and countless others. (In other words, nobody really knows.) One suggestion was even that perhaps there exists some natural limit to the number of people likely to become obese.
But what about government mandates and other anti-obesity programs? That had to have made the difference, right? Interestingly, that’s about the only thing on which there was broad consensus among the scientific community, and probably not in the way you would expect. According to the Times, “Many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work, but proponents of the programs say a broad set of policies applied systematically over a period of time could have a chance.” Perhaps needless to say, but we’ll go with science over agenda-driven activism every time.