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U.S. Teens Begin to Slim Down, Study Suggests

Adolescents are eating healthier, exercising more
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In the earliest group, 14.9 percent were overweight and 10.3 percent were obese. By the second period, those numbers had jumped to 17 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. But for the most recent group, the rate of overweight teens dropped slightly to 16.6 percent, and the rate of obesity leveled off at 12.7 percent.

When looked at by gender, boys made more significant gains than girls. The rate of overweight and obesity leveled off for girls between the second and third periods. But the boys went from 18.4 percent overweight in the second period to 17.4 percent in the third. Their levels of obesity dropped very slightly, from 14.5 percent to 14.4 percent.

During the study, physical activity rose slightly. TV time dropped from an average of about 3.1 hours to 2.4. However, video game and computer use increased slightly.

Fruit and vegetable consumption increased during the study, with teens reporting they consumed some produce five or six days a week. Consumption of sweet foods and sweetened beverages decreased. In addition, slightly more kids ate breakfast.

Dr. Robert Gensure, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children's Hospital of Montefiore in New York City, found the study results refreshing.

"I think it's great to have some good news for a change, particularly in adolescents," Gensure said. "They measured some of the things that would be considered the 'usual suspects,' and it looks like those were trending in the right direction."

"To some extent, this validates public-health campaigns and other efforts that are being made," he said. "But we need to know which interventions are working."

Sharon Strohm, manager of clinical nutrition and diabetes education at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said public-health campaigns and awareness programs need to continue.

"As many times as you can deliver the message of healthy living and repeat it, that helps," she said.

Parents shouldn't forget they serve as role models, even for their teens, Strohm said. "If your child sees you trying to eat right and be healthy, it does rub off on them," she said.

Iannotti said parents should try to encourage physical activity with their children. "Go for a walk after dinner or do something else active as a family, and you'll cut down on screen time too," he said.

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