The new paper, by Centers for Disease Control researcher Cynthia L. Ogden and co-authors, doesn't say why childhood obesity is declining. But the paper and several other studies that it cites suggest a number of theories:
- Nutrition assistance such as food stamps and WIC (women, infants and children) may have led to decreases in childhood obesity among low-income Americans as federal standards have changed to promote healthier eating. For example, WIC has revised its funding formula to boost the amount of fruits and vegetables and peanut butter a mother and her child eat. At the time time, WIC has limited the amount of (non-breast) milk that a child drinks, to limit fat intake.
- New federal nutritional guidelines have trickled down to state and local programs, such as encouraging increased consumption of water and 100 percent fruit juice, limiting serving sizes, encouraging a single adult not to feed more than one infant at a time, and limiting time in front of the television.
- As the value of breastfeeding has been increasingly understood, there’s been a substantial increase in babies drinking breastmilk. One study showed that 70.3 percent of children breastfed in 2000, rising to 74.6 percent in 2008.
- Pregnant women have increasingly understood the risks of smoking during pregnancy, with a study showing the percentage of women doing so declining from 13.3 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2010.
- Food companies, under pressure, have limited television advertisements targeting children. Between 2003 and 2007, the daily exposure of a child, age to 2 to 5, to food ads fell by 13.7 percent.
- A number of national initiatives have promoted healthy eating among children, such as first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative and reports from a wide range of groups such as the American Public Health Association and American Academy of Pediatrics