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Federal Study Shows Improved Weights Among Infants in WIC

Federal Study Shows Improved Weights Among Infants in WIC

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After rising for years, the prevalence of high weight-for-length, used by some as an indicator of obesity, among infants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may be coming down.

A study in the January 2017 Pediatrics, “Trends in Weight-for-Length among Infants in WIC from 2000 to 2014” (published online Dec. 13), shows a turnaround beginning in 2010, which follows various changes in the WIC program such as delaying introduction of cereal and juice to infants and better support of breastfeeding options.
The changes reflected the latest U.S. dietary and American Academy of Pediatrics infant feeding guidelines. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Agriculture analyzed data from 17 million infants (ages 3 to 24 months) included in the program’s biennial censuses between 2000 and 2014. 
They found that the prevalence of high weight-for-length increased from 13.4% in 2000 to 14.5 percent in 2004, remained constant until 2010, and then decreased to 12.3% through 2014. During the study period, they also saw higher prevalences of high weight-for-length among boys, American Indians/Alaskan Natives and program enrollees with lower family incomes, as well as geographic differences. From 2010 to 2014, the prevalence of high weight-for-length decreased in 40 states and three U.S. territories. The largest decreases were in Puerto Rico (down 9 percentage points) and Kentucky (down 7 percentage points), while the biggest increase was in in West Virginia (up 2 percentage points).
Because previous research showed infants with a high weight-for-length are at increased risk for subsequent obesity, study authors said it is important to further document trends in weight status in this age group. They also said state-specific trends should be tracked to help support state-level policies and programs targeting obesity prevention.

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