Obesity Hits 1 in 5 Toddlers: Study

Nearly 20 percent of 4-year-olds across the country are clinically obese, a new study released this week found.

Kids are growing overweight even before they encounter sugary sodas, candy and vending-machine food in schools - meaning current efforts to reform childhood obesity could be misguided, according to the study published in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine.

Researchers in the study weighed 8,550 Hispanic, African-American, Native American and Caucasian children and found that risks of obesity are higher among children of color.

The study found that 31.2 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskans, 22 percent of Hispanics, 20.8 percent of blacks, 15.9 percent of whites and 12.8 percent of Asians were clinically obese.

18.4 percent total hit the obese mark.

"These results really do point to the need for us to focus attention on early childhood and the need for research to understand how these differences can emerge so early," Sarah Anderson, the study's leading author and an asstant professor of epidemiology at The Ohio State University, told CNN.

Researchers behind the study said the kids' weight could be attributed to poor lifestyle choices by parents or lack of physical activity.

The study followed the children from 2001 to 2005, measuring height, weight and body mass index to reach their figures.

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