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U.S. may be turning corner in the fight against obesity

Giada De Laurentiis and kids participate in a sponsored food event on February 23, 2014 in Miami, Florida.

Obesity among the youngest Americans has dropped, according to a new report from the CDC out this morning. Over the last decade obesity among 2 – to 5-year olds has fallen from 14 percent to about 8 percent.

If you worry about healthcare costs, this report is welcome news: obesity is expensive, with spending on the disease and related illness at more than $200 billion dollars a year.

“It is the diseases that cost the most in healthcare for us,” says Dr. Jeffrey Koplan is the vice president of the Emory Global Health Institute. “We’re talking about diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke. It’s a list that goes on and on and on,” he says.

Researchers aren’t sure what’s driving down obesity rates among young children – everything from an increase in breast feeding, to changes in the SNAP food program are theories. To be clear, the nation’s weight problems haven’t improved overall, but Temple epidemiologist Robert Whitaker points out obesity hasn’t gotten worse.

“I think that’s a very important finding considering that for almost three decades there have been a steady increase in the prevalence of obesity affecting people of all ages, races and ethnicities,” he says.

Whitaker says this new report from CDC, coupled with other indicators like increased physical activity and a drop in caloric intake suggests to him that our three decade trend may have come to a halt.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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