Childhood obesity rates in the US may have reached a plateau after decades of continuous increases, a government report has claimed.

According to a study released yesterday (28 May) by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates in children and teens stabilised at 16% between 1999 and 2006.

The data, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on a survey of over 8,000 children aged between two and 19.

The report was unable to pin down the causes for a stabilisation in the level of childhood obesity. Causes posited include efforts to increase awareness, such as public health campaigns, and the possibility that there has been a natural levelling off related to the proportion of the population with a genetic susceptibility to obesity.

Cynthia Ogden, the lead author of the report and an epidemiologist for the National Center for Health Statistics, commented: “It doesn’t mean we’ve solved it, but maybe there is some opportunity for some optimism here.”

Responding to the report, the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s chief scientist, Robert Brackett, said the food and beverage industry was “committed” to reducing obesity.

Brackett added: “We will continue to provide consumers with healthier options, market our products responsibly and invest in programs that promote healthy eating and more physical activity.”