While the U.S. teen obesity rate has leveled off in recent years, a new study shows that the problem is actually worsening for kids from less-affluent families.
Researchers found that between 2003 and 2010-11, there was a decline in obesity among U.S. teens whose parents had gone to college -- dipping to 7 percent in one government study, and 11 percent in another.
But when they looked at kids whose parents had no more than a high school education, the trend was discouraging. For those teens, the obesity rate continued to climb -- landing at 26 percent to 29 percent in 2010.
That's a striking social disparity, said lead researcher Carl Frederick, of Harvard University in Boston. "There's good news for families of high socioeconomic status," Frederick said. "We're turning the tide. The bad news is, we're leaving other children behind."
It has been known that obesity is a bigger problem for low-income, less-educated Americans. But the new study, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the gap is growing.
Experts point to lower-income parents having fewer resources to make healthy diet changes and teens' lack of exercise resources as reasons for the growing disparity in obesity rates between affluent and lower-income homes.