Toddler obesity shrank sharply in the past decade, a new study suggests. While promising, it's not proof that the nation has turned a corner in the battle against childhood obesity, some experts say.
The finding comes from a government study considered a gold-standard gauge of trends in the public's health. The researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 decreased — to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. That would represent a 43 percent drop.
But the decline was seen only in preschoolers, not in older children. And some experts note that even the improvement in toddlers wasn't a steady decline, and say it's hard to know yet whether preschooler weight figures are permanently curving down or merely jumping around.
It is enough of a decline to be optimistic, said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study's authors. "There's a glimmer of hope," said Ogden, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report was published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Obesity is seen as one of the nation's leading public health problems. A third of U.S. children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.
Officials are particularly worried about the problem in young children. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than other children to be heavy as adults, which means greater risks of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma and even mental health problems.
The new study is a national survey of about 9,100 people — including nearly 600 infants and toddlers — in 2011-2012.