Obesity rates have dropped among children aged 2 to 4 who are receiving public assistance under the WIC program, in the wake of nutritional changes enacted over the past few years.
The decrease was subtle, from 16% in 2010 to 14% in 2016, but the study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reflected results from earlier studies. Published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the results were deemed promising.
“It gives us more hope that this is a real change,” Heidi Blanck, who heads obesity prevention at the CDC, told the Associated Press.
WIC is a federal program for mothers who are pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum, as well as their children from infants up to age 5, living in low-income households.
Adding overweight children to the tally, the study also showed that the percentage of overweight and obese children overall declined from 32.5% in 2010 to 29.1% in 2016, noted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to health.
These and other drops counted “statistically significant declines” overall, across all age, gender and racial/ethnic groups, the foundation noted.
The reasons were not clear, but could include WIC food packaging revisions, plus initiatives at the local, state and national levels.
“The changes are meaningful and substantial,” former CDC obesity expert William Dietz told AP.
Among other changes, kids are consuming less fruit juice and more low- or nonfat milk because of changes in what the program will assist in buying, Dietz said.
Indeed, amplifying the positive dietary changes could contribute to even more health gains, University of Maryland child development and nutrition specialist Maureen Black told AP.
In April a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that obesity risk was reduced among 4-year-olds who had been on WIC since birth after nutritional changes were introduced in the program.