Child obesity epidemic seen leveling off

"This was true for boys and girls, for whites, African Americans and Mexican Americans. And it was even true when we picked three different levels of high body mass index," said study author Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics.

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In the Journal of the American Medical Association, CDC officials announced childhood obesity levels may have reached a peak.

In the 1960s, 4 to 5 percent of teens were overweight. That number climbed to 16 percent in 1999. The latest numbers show no gain.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from more than 8,000 children participating in a national health survey. But certain groups remain at risk. Mexican American and African American children are still more likely to be overweight than their white counterparts.

"By race ethnicity particularly among girls we see big disparities where about 28 percent of African American girls, 20 percent of Mexican American girls and about 14 percent of white teenage girls are overweight or obese," Dr. Ogden said.

Brian Gordon battled a weight problem as a child. He says parental encouragement helped him get active.

"I gained a lot of weight in my middle school. My parents got me into soccer, baseball, wrestling and things like that," said Brian Gordon.

Experts are encouraged by the findings, saying public health efforts to curb childhood obesity, such as removing junk food from schools, may be paying off.

Also, the healthy eating and exercise message shouldn't end in elementary school. Researchers found adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 are more likely to be overweight and obese than kids ages 2 to 5.


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