In a recent policy statement emphasizing early identification and prevention strategies, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition refers to an “epidemic” of excessive weight and frank obesity in children. Similarly, this rather graphic term can be found in a number of recent articles, commentaries, reports from expert consensus conferences, and pronouncements by public officials. “Epidemic” is usually used to describe the spread of an infectious disease. Although not contagious, childhood obesity is spreading like influenza, and we have no vaccine against it. Its prevalence is increasing worldwide, even in less-developed countries. In the United States, childhood obesity is the most common nutritional disorder (1 in 3 are overweight or close to it), with disproportionately high rates in ethnic minorities. American children are on course to grow into the most obese generation of adults in history. The rise in the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents in...

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