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NATIONAL DROP IN OBESE TODDLERS, STUDY SUGGESTS

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:26 Published in Health & Fitness

ATLANTA (AP) -- Toddler obesity shrank sharply in the past decade, a new study suggests. While promising, it's not proof that the nation has turned a corner in the battle against childhood obesity, some experts say.

The finding comes from a government study considered a gold-standard gauge of trends in the public's health. The researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 decreased - to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. That would represent a 43 percent drop.

But the only decline was seen in preschoolers, not in older children. And some experts note that even the improvement in toddlers wasn't a steady decline, and say it's hard to know yet whether preschooler weight figures are permanently curving down or merely jumping around.

It is enough of a decline to be optimistic, said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study's authors.

"There's a glimmer of hope," said Ogden, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report was published online Tuesday in the Journal of thecs American Medical Association.

Health officials have long been hoping for more substantial evidence that they've turned a corner in the fight against childhood obesity.

Obesity is seen as one of the nation's leading public health problems - health officials call it a longstanding epidemic. A third of U.S. children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.

Officials are particularly worried about the problem in young children. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than other children to be heavy as adults, which means greater risks of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma and even mental health problems.

After decades on the rise, childhood obesity rates recently have been flat. But a few places - including New York City and Mississippi - reported improvements in the last couple of years. Seattle joined that list last week, with a report of recently declining obesity in older school children in low-income school districts.

More broadly, health officials last year reported at least slight drops in obesity for low-income preschoolers in 18 states. But they mainly were children enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides food vouchers and other services. Experts attributed the improvement to WIC policy changes in 2009 that eliminated juice from infant food packages, provided less saturated fat, and made it easier to buy fruits and vegetables.

The new study is a national survey of about 9,100 people - including nearly 600 infants and toddlers - in 2011-2012, in which participants were not only interviewed but weighed and measured. The results were compared to four similar surveys that stretched back to 2003.

"I think it's fair to say that (this study) is probably the best source of data we have on whether the prevalence of obesity is increasing with time," said Dr. Robert C. Whitaker, a Temple University expert of childhood obesity.

The main finding was that, overall, both adult and childhood obesity rates have held flat in the past decade. And there were no significant changes in most age groups.

But there were two exceptions: For some reason experts aren't sure about, the obesity rate in women age 60 and older rose from 31.5 percent to more than 38 percent. And the preschool obesity rate dropped.

Some health leaders in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta celebrated the latter finding. They say it's an early sign of a pay-off from campaigns to increase breastfeeding rates and cut consumption of sodas and other sugary beverages. First lady Michelle Obama issued a statement that her `Let's Move!' initiative - which promotes youth exercise and good nutrition - is causing healthier habits "to become the new norm."

Some experts were more cautious about the results.

The preschooler obesity numbers fell from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to 10 percent in 2007-2008, then jumped to 12 in 2009-2010, then slipped to 8 in the most recent survey.

So it seems to have been jumping around a little. "We're going to need more" years of data to see if the apparent trend is really nosing downward, said John Jakicic, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center.

Some wondered whether it makes sense that preschoolers would be the ones leading a downward trend in childhood obesity. For years, most childhood anti-obesity initiatives were older-kid efforts removing soda vending machines from schools and increasing physical education.

Apart from the WIC policy change, there's been less of a push regarding preschoolers. "Relative to older children, less has been done" to fight obesity in toddlers, Whitaker said.

Lingering questions aside, Jakicic said he was still glad to see the numbers. "I think we should be excited it's not getting worse," he said.

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Mann, Thornton lead Georgia past Missouri

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:46 Published in Sports
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Charles Mann can now see a bright side to Georgia's rough start to the season.
 
"We knew we were a great team," he said. "People didn't believe that, but we believed in each other and in the system. We wanted to come out and play hard just to win this year."
 
Mann scored 19 points, Marcus Thornton added 15 and Georgia won its second straight game with a 71-56 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night.
 
The Bulldogs (16-11, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) have won six of seven to strengthen their hold on third place in the league.
 
Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson each finished with 17 points for Missouri (19-9, 7-8 SEC).
 
The Tigers, coming off Saturday's dispirited loss at Alabama, might have hurt their chance of making a sixth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
 
"No, we're just trying to win," Brown said. "We're not trying to put extra pressure on ourselves. We've got to have faith in our team and each other."
 
Georgia, which went just 6-6 in nonconference play, began the SEC schedule by snapping Missouri's 26-game home winning streak on Jan. 8. Only No. 1 Florida and No. 17 Kentucky have performed better.
 
But Thornton said the Bulldogs aren't discussing their postseason prospects. They still have a lot of work to do to earn an NCAA bid.
 
Georgia closes the regular season with games at Arkansas, against Mississippi State and at LSU.
 
"We're not necessarily worried about that," Thornton said. "So focus on the next game and try to put ourselves in position to win."
 
Missouri dropped into a two-way tie for 10th place with Vanderbilt.
 
The Tigers' last lead came on Brown's layup midway through the first half. Missouri was outscored 16-6 over the final 9:12 before intermission.
 
Mann opened up the second half with a straightaway 3, and Juwan Parker's three-point play a couple of minutes later gave Georgia its first double-digit lead at 37-26.
 
Despite outrebounding the Bulldogs, Missouri struggled in nearly every other facet of the game, missing 15 of its first 16 attempts beyond the arc, getting outscored 38-18 in the paint and 11-2 on fast breaks.
 
"Shots weren't falling," Tigers coach Frank Haith said. "Georgia is a good defensive team, but I thought we had a lot of good looks."
 
Georgia's Kenny Gaines, coming off career-high 27 points at South Carolina, finished with 10 points.
 
The Tigers dropped to 2-6 in SEC road games. They finished 2-7 on the road in their first SEC season last year.
 
Missouri's defense has really struggled in the last two games. Georgia, which began the night with the SEC's worst field-goal shooting percentage in league games, shot 52.1 percent from the field.
 
The Tigers let Alabama shoot 54.7 percent last weekend — the Crimson Tide's highest percentage against a Division I team in five years.
 
Missouri's last three games are against Mississippi State and Texas A&M and at LSU. Haith isn't concerned about a lack of effort.
 
"I was happy with our guys," Haith said. "I thought they competed. Ryan Rosburg got 12 rebounds. We outrebounded them. I think we completed pretty hard tonight."
 
Georgia began the game averaging 28 free throws per game, but was 0 for 6 from the foul line in the first half. The Bulldogs missed the front end of three straight one-and-one chances before Nemanja Djurisic had two attempts hit hard off the rim.
 
Djurisic redeemed himself, though, by closing the first half with two 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater that made it 31-22.
 
"Yeah, I felt like we were right around there and then (Djurisic) hit those two 3s," Brown said. "That was kind of a momentum booster for them."
 
The Bulldogs finished the game 16 for 26 from the foul line.

ARIZONA BUSINESSES WANT VETO OF BILL ANGERING GAYS

Monday, 24 February 2014 09:40 Published in National News

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's biggest business advocacy group is calling on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill allowing business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.

The legislation passed last week has triggered a national backlash from supporters of gay rights, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is among business groups requesting a veto.

The chamber said Monday the bill could hurt tourism, make it hard to recruit new businesses and open the door to lawsuits against businesses.

But conservative groups supporting the legislation are pushing back and hoping Brewer signs it in to law.

The state Senate is expected to formally send the already approved bill to Brewer as early as Monday afternoon. She would then have five days to act.

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