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Fewer overweight or obese children in Canada after years of increased rates

Canadian Medical Association Journal

After years of increases, the rates of children who are overweight or obese are declining in Canada, according to new research in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Between 1978 and 2004, there was a significant increase in Canada in the rates of children who are obese or overweight aged 2 to 17 years, from 23.3% to 34.7%, using the World Health Organization's (WHO) revised growth curves.

However, new research from the University of Manitoba shows progress in efforts to combat this health concern. The study, conducted to understand obesity trends in Canada, looked at data on 14 014 children between the ages of 3 and 19 years. The sex distribution of the group was split evenly and 80% of the children were white.

The data came from the Canadian Community Health Survey and the Canadian Health Measures Survey.

Researchers found a significant decrease in rates of childhood overweight or obesity between 2004 and 2013, from 30.7% in 2004 to 27.0% a decade later among children aged 3 to 19 years. Both weight and body mass index (BMI) were lower, contributing to the reversing trend. By comparison, obesity rates in children in the United States generally remained static.

"Unfortunately, Canadian children are still relatively heavy. The median z scores for BMI and weight in 2012/13 remained above those for the WHO growth charts," write Drs. Celia Rodd and Atul Sharma, Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The authors suggest that the decline in children who are overweight or obese may be because the introduction of BMI growth charts in 2000 has made it easier for health care providers to discuss weight issues with parents. In addition, public awareness has benefited from a variety of intervention programs and media attention.

"Despite a welcome decline in the rates of overweight children and a plateau in obesity, we can't become complacent," states Dr. Rodd. "We must continue to focus on measures to encourage children and their families to maintain healthy weights."

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