Commentary: Nation's obesity problem remains complex

by Josh Sosland
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With corn prices reaching record highs last week, commodity markets continued to retain their rank as the "No. 1" story for grain-based foods, displacing health and wellness, which had dominated headlines earlier in the decade. That said, the issue of health and wellness certainly has not vanished from public consciousness.

Considerable attention has been devoted to a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showing no significant increase in the prevalence of obese children and teenagers in the United States in any of the years between 1999 and 2006. The stabilization of what had been described as a situation spiraling out of control stands as a positive surprise.

The development is particularly surprising when considering both the blame ascribed to grain-based foods and other carbohydrates for the obesity problem and the wide, perhaps unprecedented consumption swings (generally downward) for these food groups during the study period. For 2003-06, 11.3% of children and adolescents were at or above the 97th percentile for B.M.I. at their age (our statistical expertise is such that we don’t understand how 11% can be in the 97th percentile for their group).

In the end, the study affirms that the nation’s obesity problem is complex and conducive neither to simple explanations nor easy fixes.

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