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March 2, 2014

CEPEDA: As a nation, we're still too fat

If the recently announced dramatic decline in obesity among 2- to 5-year-olds holds steady, then in about 18 years it will be fair to say a dent has been made in the obesity epidemic.

It is absolutely fantastic that toddlers — and in no small measure, their parents — have started making healthier dietary choices.

If these youngsters can keep their weights under control throughout adolescence and into adulthood — and even pass on good dietary habits to their own kids — we’ll have quite a lot to celebrate. But until then, the rest of us are in dire straits.

The children who have hopefully dodged the bullet of lifelong obesity make up a very small fraction of our population. The verdict on their elders is just as frightening as it has always been.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of youths in the United States are obese. Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in children or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Even worse, there have been increases in some subgroups, especially among women 60 and older.

And those are just the aggregate numbers. It is well-known that obesity rates are even higher among blacks and Hispanics — something of a health time bomb as these two groups come to represent larger swaths of the population.

Early last week, the National Institutes of Health released findings from the first phase of its ongoing Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, the largest health study of Hispanics in the U.S. to date. The numbers were bleak.

Based on data collected between 2008 and 2011 from 16,415 Hispanic adults living in Chicago, San Diego, Miami and the Bronx, New York, the study found that:

• About 40 percent of all adults ages 19 to 44 were obese, and nearly half of women 45 and older were obese.

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