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The Older the Fatter: Longitudinal Study about Overweight Children

Fast food and coke instead of fruits and vegetables: the consequences can already be seen in children – more and more of them suffer from overweight and adiposity. But what are the reasons?

In what way are they connected, for example, with social status and body weight of the parents? On the trail of overweight, the health scientist Prof. Dr. Günter Eissing, Technische Universität Dortmund, carefully examined 432 Dortmund children at the age of three, in cooperation with BKK Hoesch, Public Health Authority and the city’s statistical department. More precisely, he measured them.

Based on height and weight, Prof. Eissing calculated the so-called Body Mass Index (BMI), compared it with birth certificate data and medical examination documents, and found out: after the first three years of their lives, 22 percent of the boys and eleven percent of the girls are overweight. The results are only the first part of a unique longitudinal study about the BMI development based on a test group of Dortmund children. After three years the test subjects will be examined again within the scope of the pre-school medical examination. So far the control of the BMI of the test subjects over a period of six years, is unique.

The first results already show: the older the children the fatter they are. Whereas the BMI was quite in relation at birth, Prof. Dr. Günter Eissing discovered that at the age of one, the percentage of children with an increased BMI was already higher. At the age of three, 22 percent of the boys and eleven percent of the girls are to be classified as overweight. Eleven percent of the boys and seven percent of the girls are considered to be adipose. Other studies show that at the age of six the number of overweight children increases once again.

The cooperation with the Public Health Authority, the BKK Hösch and, above all, the city’s statistical department, enabled Prof. Eissing to precisely depict the socio-spatial spreading in the tests group. The social clusters described in the city’s social report are accurately reflected. Among others, they are based on income level, unemployment and level of education. Cluster 1 represents the most stable and cluster 5 the socially underprivileged social areas.

Prof. Dr. Günter Eissing found far more children with overweight and adiposity in the social cluster 4 than in the clusters one to three. Children with overweight parents also have a significantly higher BMI than children with parents with normal weight.

Factors influencing the development of overweight can be derived from these results. In contrast to the social area and the weight of the parents, migration background as well as language and motor fitness, for example, have proven to be irrelevant. Therefore, Dr. Hilegard Kratz, Public Health Authority Dortmund, sees equal opportunities for Dortmund children to grow up with a normal weight. Jens-Peter Prigge, managing board BKK Hoesch, thinks that there are good chances to, at least, reduce the number of overweight kids with targeted prevention programs. For Mirjam Brondies from the statistical department it is especially interesting to see, how the social area as a factor for overweight is going to develop in the next three years.

Additionally she points out, that the anonymity of the data is guaranteed during the whole examination. The personal data is only available to the statistical department and the examination data only to the Technische Universität Dortmund.

Background Body Mass Index (BMI)

The Body Mass Index is a measured value for evaluating the bodyweight of a human. The BMI is just a rough criterion to facilitate comparability. The bodyweight’s composition of fat and muscle tissue is not considered. For calculation, the bodyweight in kilogram is divided by the square of the height (BMI = weight/height2). According to the World Health Organization, humans with an BMI between 20 and 25 have a normal weight. With an BMI higher than 25, a person is regarded as overweight. With an BMI exceeding 30 adiposity starts.

Background Dortmund Social Report / The Cluster

In the Dortmund social report five so-called clusters are defined, which include certain social areas. Here , among others, the factors are income, the frequency of social welfare and education. Cluster 1 represents the most stable and Cluster 5 the socially underprivileged social areas. The overall 39 social areas of Dortmund are divided into clusters in the following way:

Cluster 111 Social Areas(e.g. südliche Gartenstadt, Wellinghofen)

Cluster 2 6 Social Areas(e.g. City, Brackel, Hombruch)

Cluster 3 9 Social Areas(e.g. Dorstfeld, Schüren, Lüttgendortmund)

Cluster 410 Social Areas(e.g. Eving, Scharnhorst-Ost, Hörde)

Cluster 5 3 Social Areas (e.g. Nordmarkt, Borsigplatz)

Ole Luennemann | alfa
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