Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Obesity shrinks

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A remarkable and reliable finding of dramatically falling obesity rates in young American children is reason for optimism, but given the long-standing trend of growing girth among North Americans, it should invigorate redoubled effort in the fight against the weight problem.

A major federal health study in the U.S. has found that between 2004 and 2012, the obesity rate for three- to five-year-olds dropped from 14 per cent to eight per cent -- a 43 per cent fall. Pinpointing the cause is difficult, but it was welcome news after years of dogged efforts to cut calorie intake and improve diets. Very young, overweight children are more likely to grow up obese.

Public health efforts have ramped up in Canada, where a majority of the population 12 and older is overweight or obese, and in the U.S. over the last couple of decades as the XL trend became entrenched. Canadians ages 60 to 79 are particularly heavy, with 67 per cent self-reporting as overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada.

The weight problem and its health implications is complicated -- nutritional and medical science show it's about more than eating too much. The push must be about eating right and having daily physical activity -- keys to fighting chronic disease. The glimmer of hope in the U.S. may indicate many parents have got the message. Changing the broader trend requires a population-wide shift in lifestyle.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2014 A14

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