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  • Claims of Dramatic Obesity Drop Called Into Question

    Recent media reports that preschool obesity rates have dropped 43% in 10 years may have been based on a faulty conclusion given the data in the study. Some experts now say that it's possible that contrary to reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various news outlets, obesity rates for this group, like almost all demographic groups in the study, remain unchanged from previous levels.

    According to an article on the Reuter's news service, CDC press releases and other information that described a dramatic drop in obesity rates of children aged 2–5 is being called into question by experts largely because the study the agency cited was based on small sample sizes that generated wide margins of error. The report, published in the February 26 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, caught the attention of most major news organizations.

    The report examined obesity rates reported in 2003–2004 and compared them with rates reported in 2011–2012. While CDC pinned the preschool obesity rates at 13.9% in 2003–2004 and 8.4% in 2011–2012, the margins of error of both rates were wide enough that the actual rates could in fact overlap. Authors of the study stated that the '03–'04 rates could range from 10.8% to 17.6%, and the '11–'12 rates could be anywhere between 5.9% to 11.6%. Though the authors did include the margins of error in the article, the abstract referenced the more dramatic drop, and CDC issued public statements that cited a 43% decline.

    If the actual rates do overlap or are closer, they would mirror the results of nearly all other age groups analyzed, in which "no significant changes" were observed. The only remaining exception, if data holds, would be that obesity rates for women aged 60 and above have actually increased.

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