Researchers say that efforts to tackle youth obesity rates in the US may be "having some success," as a new study reveals that teenagers in the US are eating healthier, carrying out more physical activity and watching less TV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 more than a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. The "obesity epidemic," particularly in children and adolescents, has become an increasing concern, although there have been positive signs of decline.
Medical News Today recently reported that the CDC revealed rates of childhood obesity declined in 19 of 43 states and territories studied between 2008 and 2011.
Now, researchers from the University of Massachusetts and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD, have conducted an analysis of 35,000 teens aged between 11 and 16, and the results show that teen health may be improving.
The researchers collected data on the youths' diets, level of physical activity, height, weight and body mass index (BMI) over an 8-year period between 2001 and 2009, using Health Behavior in School-Aged Children surveys.
Increase in physical activity and healthy food intake
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that although the average BMI of the participants increased over the full study period, it saw a decline from 62.33 in 2005 to 62.07 in 2009.
Although the majority of adolescents did not reach the recommended "1 hour a day" of physical activity every day, the number of days in which that level was reached increased from 4.33 in 2001 to 4.53 in 2009.
The level of fruit consumption increased from 2-4 days a week in 2001 to 5-6 in 2009, while vegetable intake increased from 2-4 days a week in 2001 to nearly 5 days in 2009.
Additionally, adolescents' breakfast consumption increased from 2.98 days a week in 2001 to 3.25 days in 2009, while sugary soft drink intake declined from nearly 5 a day in 2001 to almost 4 in 2009.
The results also showed reduced TV viewing time over the study period, as well as a decline in the consumption of sweets.
When it came to analyzing differences in gender, boys carried out more physical activity than girls but spent more time watching TV and playing computer games.
Overall, girls consumed more fruit and vegetables than boys, but they ate more sweets and had fewer breakfasts.
The study authors note that although these findings show a positive impact as a result of efforts to tackle US youth obesity rates, there are still areas that need to be addressed:
"These patterns suggest that public health efforts to improve the obesity-related behaviors of US adolescents may be having some success.
However, alternative explanations for the increase in BMI over the same period need to be considered."
Written by Honor Whiteman