Toddlers: America's Biggest Losers

First lady Michelle Obama presents changes to food labeling just days after CDC shows declining rates of obesity in toddlers.

First lady Michelle Obama announces proposed changes to food labels during an event in the East Room of the White House Feb. 27, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

First lady Michelle Obama announces proposed changes to food labels during an event in the East Room of the White House Feb. 27, 2014, in Washington, D.C. According to a White House statement, the Nutrition Facts label has only been revised once in the last 20 years. 

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Two days after an announcement that toddlers are slimming down, first lady Michelle Obama presented a new plan for helping Americans get healthier by forcing food companies to be more honest about what’s really in their products.

On Thursday, Obama, along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Margaret Hamburg, the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, publicly announced changes to the Nutrition Facts label. The label has been revised only once in the last 20 years since it came into use, according to a White House statement.

“Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” Obama said.  “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.” 

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Perhaps, though, parents are making better health choices for their toddlers than for themselves. In the last decade, children 2 to 5 years old have seen a 43 percent drop in their obesity rates, according to federal figures published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control, The Washington Post reported.  On the other hand, more than a third of American adults are obese, according to the CDC.

“This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told the Post.

Researcher found no significant differences in obesity rates among other age groups, between the two periods when the study was conducted – 2003 to 2004 and 2011 to 2011 – but they saw a decline from 13.9 percent to 8.4 percent for toddlers, according to CNN. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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But older children and adults can still catch up by paying attention to food labels. The FDA’s proposed changes would require food companies to adjust serving sizes to reflect the amount Americans eat, instead of “the amount they ‘should’ be eating,” noted the release.  Companies would also need to include the amount of “added sugar” in a product. Lastly the label redesign would highlight elements like calories, serving sizes and “percent daily value” as well as  include calorie and nutrition information for the whole package for some food products.

“To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans,"said Hamburg.

Earlier this week, the first lady announced another potential change: a ban on posters, vending machines and cups featuring images of sodas or other unhealthy beverages in schools, Politico reported. And last week, Obama appeared on "The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon." In a comedy sketch, actor Will Ferrell and Fallon, both dressed up as teenage girls, joined Obama at a pretend sleepover where they talked about exercise and the Olympics, The Daily News reported.

The proposed labeling changes and advertising ban are meant to help Americans lower their risk of obesity as well as heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.