2, March 2010
Studies Show Minority Children More Prone To Obesity And Its Risks Like Heart Diseases
The findings help explain disproportionately high obesity rates in minority children. Family income is often a factor, but so are cultural customs and beliefs, the study authors said.
In a separate, equally troubling study, researchers found signs of inflammation in obese children as young as 3 years old. High levels were more common in blacks and Hispanics.
These inflammatory markers have been linked with obesity in adults and are thought to increase chances for developing heart disease. Their significance in early childhood is uncertain.
“We think that fat cells in the body cause inflammation and that inflammation causes vessel damage,” said University of North Carolina researcher Asheley Cockrell Skinner, the lead author of this study. The results suggest that 3–year–olds with inflammation might already have artery changes that could make then prone to later heart problems. Both studies were released on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Dr Reginald Washington, a Denver pediatric heart specialist who has worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics on obesity issues, called both studies important.
Twenty percent of black and Hispanic children ages 2 to 19 are obese, versus 15% of whites, recent government data show.
In the racial disparities study, risk factors examined included: mothers smoking during pregnancy; unusually rapid weight gain in infants; starting solid food before 4 months; mothers’ pressuring kids to eat more; children sleeping less than 12 hours daily between 6 months and 2 years; and allowing kids to have sugary drinks, fastfood, and/or TVs in their rooms. Minorities were at higher risk than whites for nearly every factor.
“It’s striking,” said lead author Dr Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School. The researchers questioned 1,826 Boston–area mothers, but Taveras said the study results apply to youngsters across the US.
Many circumstances studied are more common in low–income, less educated families, including whites. Taveras said the researchers accounted for that and still found race was frequently a factor regardless of income.
The inflammation study involved data on more than 16,000 children aged 1 to 17 who had blood tests during 1999–2006 national health surveys. Inflammation markers including a substance called C–reactive protein or CRP were measured. CRP levels of at least 1 milligram per deciliter of blood have been linked with heart disease risks in adults.
Starting at age 3, very obese children were more likely than less heavy kids to have levels at least that high. Even higher levels were most common in black and Hispanic kids.