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Study shows increasing disparities in childhood obesity

Despite previous reports that cases of childhood obesity have been fairly consistent for a decade, new research from UC San Francisco shows that rates may be increasing in some ethnic groups.

In a study published today in Pediatrics, researchers analyzed body mass index data for 8 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade children in California from 2001 to 2008. The results suggest increasing racial disparity for childhood obesity rates. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

For the first time in more than three decades, obesity rates for white and Asian children are falling in California, and they seem to have leveled off for Hispanic kids - all good signs that public health campaigns aimed at keeping young people away from unhealthful sweets and fatty foods are starting to work ... The bad news is that those programs don't seem to be reaching all children.

In particular, obesity rates are still climbing for black and American Indian girls. And the percentage of youths in the heaviest range - those whose body mass index puts them in the 99th percentile for their age and gender, according to fixed growth charts established by health officials based on 2000 data - is also continuing to rise.

Although the study was limited to California, researchers stated in a release that the results show population level trends that are applicable elsewhere, since about one in eight children in the U.S. currently live in California.

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