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Fighting Childhood Obesity Begins With Toddlers

May 31, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's never too early to start teaching children about a healthy lifestyle, because it can make a difference in fighting childhood obesity. That's according to a new study by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine. They found that obese children ages 2 to 5 responded nearly seven times more favorably than older children did, after all of them completed six months in the same obesity program.

Physician Meredith Dreyer directs an intervention program called Zoom to Health at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. She is not surprised by the findings.

"We're starting to see evidence that intervening in the younger ages is resulting in the most substantial changes. It's a lot easier for parents to make changes without having quite as much fuss as when they're trying to work with teenagers, for example."

Dreyer says simply changing a child's behavior is not enough.

"Parents have the perception that, 'Oh they're just kind of chubby toddlers, and they'll grow out of it.' But research has certainly shown that kids don't grow out of it. Your risk of obesity at 12 is high, if you're obese at age 2."

Zoom to Health works with parents of children ages 2 to 8, offering education about healthy eating, physical activity, parenting and problem solving.

The full study is available at

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO