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'Disheartening' study finds childhood obesity is on the rise

Scientists have thought for years that progress had been made toward curbing severe childhood obesity in the United States. But new findings appear to tip that scale in the other direction.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that since 2013, "severe obesity" in the U.S. in children between the ages of 2 to 5 has increased significantly. Obesity is measured by an individual's Body Mass Index (BMI), or ratio of height to weight. The researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention across age groups, and combined that analysis with "in-home" examinations to determine that the number of obese children is increasing.

Overall, the study found a continuous climb in obesity from 1999 to 2016, which contracts previous optimistic reports. Girls aged 16 to 19 were also identified as a highly impacted group alongside the younger children.

"This is not surprising, necessarily, but is disheartening," said Asheley Skinner, a health services researcher and associate professor at Duke University and co-author of the study. "It tells us that our efforts to improve the health of children is not reaching across the country."

Roughly 1 in 5 adolescents are affected by obesity in the U.S. — a rate that has more than tripled since the 1970s, per the CDC. Read the full study at Pediatrics.