(iVillage Total Health) - Nearly 1 out of every 10 infants and toddlers were overweight between 2003 and 2004, according to newly released data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Concerns about a growing obesity epidemic in the United States have prompted many pediatricians, parents and public health officials to closely monitor infant and toddler weights. Poor eating habits begin early and begin in the home and nutritionists want to start healthy lifestyles of diet and exercise early. Numerous studies have indicated that children who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop a host of chronic illnesses and diseases later on, including type 2 diabetes, asthma and coronary artery diseases.
Officials estimated that 9.5 percent of infants and children under 23 months old were above the 95th percentile for weight and length. The CDC maintains growth charts that help pediatricians and parents determine if children are developing on par with other children in the same age group. A child in the 95th percentile of growth is larger than 95 percent of the children in that age range nationwide.
The latest estimates for overweight children from birth up to 23 months old are up slightly from survey results collected in 2001-02 (when 7.9 percent of the children in that age group were overweight). But the results are down slightly from 1999-2000 levels, when an estimated 10.6 percent were overweight.
The data was derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which included household interviews and physical examinations of participants. Babies were weighed and measured for length while lying down.
The NHANES data for children 6 months to 23 months show a general trend toward heavier babies dating back from 1976, when 7.2 percent of children were overweight. In 2003-04, the survey showed 11.5 percent of children in that age group were overweight.
The survey of older children—2 to 19 years old—showed that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents were overweight in 2003-04. The percentage of overweight children rose from 2001-02 levels: from 7.2 to 13.9 percent among 2 to 5 year olds. Among 6 to 11 year olds, overweight children rose from 11 to 19 percent between 1988-94 and 2003-2004. During the same time period, 12 to 19 year olds also experienced an increase, going 11 to 17 percent.
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