It appears that efforts to curb obesity among children in the U.S. are working as researchers claim that child obesity measured in terms of waste circumference in the country has leveled off after years of increasing steadily.

Findings of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics on July 21 showed that the incidence of abdominal obesity, which is defined by the waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), among children and adolescents in the U.S. has leveled off in recent years.

Study researcher Lyn Steffen, from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues examined the data of more than 16,000 children between 2 and 18 years old from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to estimate the prevalence and trends in abdominal obesity among children between the years 2003 and 2012.

The researchers found that 17.95 percent of children between 2 and 18 years old were obese as measured by their waist circumference in 2011-2012, which is nearly the same as the rate of abdominal obesity in 2003-2004. In 2004, 18.33 of the children were considered obese and this increased to 18.65 percent in 2006 and 19.4 percent in 2008, which later dropped to 18.3 percent in 2010.

"Mean WC and WHtR and prevalence of abdominal obesity kept stable between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012, independently of gender, age, and race/ethnicity," the researchers wrote. "However, there was a significant decrease in abdominal obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years."

While the numbers appear encouraging suggesting that efforts to combat childhood obesity are working, the researchers said that the prevalence of obesity among children remains high and measures should be considered to lower the rate of childhood obesity.

"Number one, it's good, the prevalence of abdominal obesity remained the same over the last eight years, that's good, but the prevalence is still high, so we need to think about what to do to lower the numbers," Steffen said adding that children who are obese and overweight are likely to remain that way even when they reach adulthood.

Abdominal fat is an indicator of elevated risks for certain unwanted health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure which puts affected individuals vulnerable to these potentially fatal health problems. As to why the prevalence of obesity appears to be leveling off in the U.S., Steffen said that this may be due to policy changes that have put emphasis on the risks of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. 

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