Nearly one in four toddlers are overweight or have obesity, but lately those numbers have dropped. A recent study shows 2-to-4-year-old kids have significantly lower obesity rates than in 2010. In Utah, obesity rates among toddlers dropped from 12.5 percent to 8.2 percent.
These numbers come from the health policy non-profit organization Trust for America’s Health. Communications manager Albert Lang says Utah’s obesity rates among toddlers are the lowest in the nation.
“Utah in particular, they’ve been encouraging their early childhood education providers that participate in the Child and Adult Care Feeding program, which has some funding from the federal and state governments, to provide nutrition standards that exceed the federal requirements," he said. "So they’re actually going beyond what the federal government has said and proposing more stringent standards on what kids eat when they are in early childhood settings.”
The study focused on toddlers from low-income families enrolled in Women, Infant and Children (WIC) state and federal programs. Lang said that children from families living below the federal poverty line are often at higher risk for obesity.
“They have poor access to places to be active in their communities and poor access to fresh and affordable produce where they live," he explained. "It’s kind of a double edged sword for them. So if we can make sure outside the home setting they’re getting access to places to be physically active, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, then we know we’re doing part of the battle already.”
Studies from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that kids who are overweight when they begin kindergarten are four times more likely to have obesity in 8th grade.
“We’ve been looking at obesity rates across the nation for more than a decade now and I think in the last five years or so we’ve really learned that what happens at a young age really kind of has a real link to what happens as an adult," Lang said. "So if we can stop it early, then we won’t even need to stop it as an adult because we’ve already nipped it in the bud.”