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Childhood obesity rates level off among some groups in California

August 15, 2010

Despite the dire warnings about high obesity levels in this country, some recent studies show that U.S. obesity rates may be leveling off. A new study finds that among children in California, obesity rates are evening out in some ethnic and racial groups, but not all.

The study, released Sunday in the journal Pediatrics, looked at body mass index rates among 8.3 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students in California from 2001 to 2008. Researchers found that among California public school students in 2008, 38% were overweight, 19.8% were obese and 3.6% were severely obese.

In 2005, obesity rates began to fall for white children (to 12%) and Asian children (to 13%). Rates for black and American Indian boys varied, and they leveled off for Latino children, at 26%. But obesity rates from 2001 to 2008 increased gradually to 22% among black girls and to 23% among American Indian girls.

Black, Latina and American Indian girls had two to three times the odds of having a high BMI compared with white girls.

In the study, the authors wrote, "These findings are a call to action for policies and interventions that are tailored for use in high-risk populations. School- and after-school-based programs have demonstrated improvements in weight status among black and Latino youth.

However, they added that more interventions are needed to help other obese children who are at high risk for weight-related health issues.

Dr. Kristine Madsen of UC San Francisco, lead author of the study, said in a news release: "The stabilization of obesity among Latinos is encouraging, but Latino youth still have the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the state. As our country becomes increasingly diverse, it's critical that we act quickly to address these disparities."

-Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times

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