Obesity rates for young children have increased significantly since the 1990s and have been shown to lead to negative health consequences in adulthood. But the prevalence of obesity among low-income preschoolers may finally be starting to decrease, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report found that 19 of 43 states and territories surveyed showed "small but significant" decreases in the obesity rates for low-income preschoolers between 2008 and 2011. Another 20 states and Puerto Rico showed no change, and three states (Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee) experienced slight increases between 0.6 and 0.7 percentage points.
Some of the states and territories that experienced a decrease – such as Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands – saw more significant decreases of at least one percentage point since 2008.
Overweight or obese preschoolers are five times more likely to become overweight or obese adults as their non-obese peers, according to the CDC. Currently, about one in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese.
"Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a written statement. "While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction."
Researchers analyzed and measured the heights and weights of nearly 12 million children between the ages of two and four to find their conclusions.
Obesity rates for low-income preschool-aged children have increased from a low of 10 percent nationally in 1990. The rates began to level off around 14 percent from 2003 to 2008, and researchers began to see declines in many states in 2011.
First Lady Michelle Obama in part attributed the decline to her signature "Let's Move!" initiative. "Today's announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life," Obama said in a released statement. "Yet, while this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children."