Obesity

After Years of Hand-Wringing, Obesity Rates Decline for No Known Reasons

Experts admit that people are often beyond comprehension

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Obesity rates among American children, after stubbornly rising for decades, have started to decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, what's most striking and most encouraging about the drop is that it seems to extend to poor and minority children, who have the highest rates of obesity and attendant health problems like diabetes. It does not appear to be a fluke, either—the overall growth in obesity rates had been slowing lately, and certain cities had already reported modest drops.

What's the cause of the decline? There, again, is the rub. Amid the pronouncements of cautious optimism there's already an argument over what to credit. One theory is that it's due to an increase in rates of breast-feeding. Some doctors assert that the practice, by letting babies decide when they're full rather than leaving it up to the parents, prevents children from growing up into overeaters. Others point to healthier meals in schools, or a decline in the amount of sugary drinks kids consume. A few talk about Michelle Obama's Let's Move!, a national initiative to disseminate health information to parents and encourage kids to be more active. Still others suggest that what's happening has little to do with government interventions such as the First Lady's.