Childhood obesity in children ages 2 to 5 dropped 43 percent in the past decade, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“This is the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to The New York Times.
Ogden, who is the lead author of the study, noted that although the number of obese children in that age range has gone down, the numbers for every other age range stayed the same or rose.
According to The Times, there's no consensus on what caused the decrease in childhood obesity in that age range, although the article mentioned that a rise in breast-feeding among women and an average decrease in calorie consumption among children might have contributed.
Nevertheless, both the CDC and others are excited by the prospect that progress is being made in the fight against the obesity epidemic.
“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in The Washington Post.
Others were more hesitant to declare a victory in the fight against obesity, pointing to the conclusion of the study's abstract as proof that the U.S. has a long way to go.
"Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance," the study's conclusion stated.
James Hamblin, a medical doctor and senior editor of The Atlantic, warned that the encouraging news could make people complacent about obesity.
"At best we celebrate with cautious optimism over something of a leveling off. It's not worse than it was, but it's far from good," he wrote.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Robert Lustig, director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Program at the University of California at San Francisco, echoed Hamblin's remarks.
“There is no question that if toddlers are doing better, something good is happening. But we have a whole lot more to do, and we’re not affecting people who have minds of their own,” he said.
Some are already engaged in the work to continue curbing childhood obesity.
For example, on the same day the study was published, Michelle Obama proposed new rules and regulations on the types of foods that can be sold or advertised in school cafeterias, according to CNN.
This month also marks the four-year anniversary of the first lady's campaign Let's Move to combat childhood obesity.