Study finds alarming obesity rates in U.S. preschoolers

A new study says almost one in five U.S. four-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese.

CHICAGO — A new study says almost one in five U.S. four-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese.

Overall, more than half a million four-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. The disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.

“The magnitude of these differences was larger than we expected, and it is surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood,” said Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher. She conducted the research with Temple University’s Dr. Robert Whitaker.

As minorities grow proportionally within the general population, the next generation could be at very high risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, joint diseases and other problems connected with obesity.

In the study, 8,550 preschoolers were measured in their homes. The results appear in Monday’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Almost 13 per cent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 per cent of whites, almost 21 per cent of blacks, 22 per cent of Hispanics, and 31 per cent of American Indians.

Children were considered obese if their body-mass index, a height-weight ratio, was in the 95th percentile or higher on government BMI charts.

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