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Editorial: An ounce of good news in the weight wars

In 1995 no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. By 2011 all but one did. |  Brian

In 1995, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. By 2011, all but one did. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 4, 2013 2:43PM

The bad news about our nation’s obesity epidemic is so relentless it’s worth taking time out to appreciate a couple of positive notes.

One popped up last month when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported obesity rates are dropping among 2- to 4-year-olds in the nation’s poor families. The study found that the percentage fell from 15.2 percent in 2003 to 14.9 percent in 2010, reversing a rapid increase in the previous five years.

The other was a study that came out this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It suggested obese people don’t necessarily have to lose all of that excess weight to be healthy. The study — an analysis of nearly 100 earlier studies covering more than 2.9 million people around the world — concluded people who are overweight by 30 pounds or less actually are less likely to die early than people of normal weight.

Critics say the second study was flawed. The researchers’ “normal weight” people included smokers and some who were thin because of cancer or other diseases, they said.

But we’re choosing to interpret these studies as a sign that the battle against obesity isn’t hopeless.

Obesity is linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer and many other health problems. But even small increases in regular physical activity and better nutrition — including cooking more at home and limiting processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup — can make people significantly healthier.

About a third of Americans are obese, which means they’re carrying an extra 35 or more extra pounds or so. Another third, while not obese, are still too heavy. But, as these studies suggest, it doesn’t have to be that way.

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