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Study shows a possible link between preschoolers' cavities and excess body fat

Preschool children with tooth decay may be more likely to be overweight or obese than the general population and, regardless of weight, are more likely to consume too many calories, a new study indicates. The results will be presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society's 92nd Annual Meeting in San Diego.

"Poor eating habits may play a role in both tooth decay and obesity in preschoolers," the study's lead author, Kathleen Bethin, MD, PhD, said.

"Dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and obesity in youth is a growing problem. To prevent these problems, the dentist's office may be an important place to educate families about nutrition," said Bethin, a pediatrician at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo in New York.

With funding from the New York State Department of Health, the doctors at the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo and University of Buffalo studied the relationship between poor dental health and overweight in 65 children who were 2 to 5 years old. All children needed dental work due to decay and had their dental procedure and blood work performed while they were under anesthesia.

Each child's height and weight were measured before the procedure to calculate the body mass index, or BMI. For most people, BMI reliably indicates the amount of body fat. Also, the child's guardian completed a questionnaire about the child's recent average daily food consumption.

Almost 28 percent of the children were overweight or obese compared with an estimated 21.2 percent in the general U.S. population. Those 18 children, who's BMI was high for their age (at the 85th percentile or above), already had much higher total cholesterol levels than their healthy-weight counterparts, Bethin reported.

Of the 65 children, 47 were a healthy weight, having a BMI in the fifth to 84th percentile for their age.

However, the questionnaire showed that both the normal-weight and overweight children consumed more calories a day than recommended for their age (1,440 and 1,570 calories respectively). Seventy-one percent of children consumed more than 1,200 calories per day although the daily recommended caloric intake ranges from 1,000 to 1,400 calories depending on age and gender of the child.

"Further analysis is needed to explore whether consumption of juice and sweets accounts for the excessive calorie intake and links high BMI and dental decay," Bethin said.

Aaron Lohr | EurekAlert!
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