Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Childhood obesity prevention should begin early in life, possibly before birth

01.03.2010
Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should begin far earlier than currently thought—perhaps even before birth—especially for minority children, according to a new study that tracked 1,826 women from pregnancy through their children's first five years of life.

Most obesity prevention programs—including the national initiative recently launched by First Lady Michelle Obama—target kids age 8 and older. Scientists at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute's Department of Population Medicine, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, now say that factors that place children at higher risk for obesity begin at infancy, and in some cases, during pregnancy. Their research also suggests that risk factors such as poor feeding practices, insufficient sleep and televisions in bedrooms are more prevalent among minority children than white children.

"This early life period—prenatal, infancy, to age 5–is a key period for childhood obesity prevention, especially for minority children," says Elsie Taveras, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, as well as the director of the One Step Ahead Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "Almost every single risk factor in that period before age 2, including in the prenatal period, was disproportionately higher among minority children."

For the study, which appears online March 1 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers interviewed 1,343 white, 355 black and 128 Hispanic pregnant women at the end of the first and second trimesters, in the first few days following delivery, and when the children were 6 months and 3 years of age. The women also completed questionnaires when the children were 1, 2 and 4 years old.

When compared to Caucasian women, the researchers found that minority women were more likely to be overweight when they became pregnant and Hispanic women had a higher rate of gestational diabetes, both risk factors for childhood obesity. Although the prevalence of two other risk factors—smoking and depression—during pregnancy was higher among African-American and Hispanic women, those rates dropped considerably when the researchers adjusted for socioeconomic status, suggesting that at least those two risk factors may be impacted by income and education levels.

When researchers looked at other risk factors during children's first five years, they found that African-American and Hispanic infants are more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be born small, gain excess weight after birth, begin eating solid foods before 4 months of age and sleep less. During their preschool years, the study suggests, minority children eat more fast food, drink more sugar-sweetened beverages and are more likely to have televisions in their rooms than Caucasian children.

One commonly held theory is that the presence of these and other risk factors is caused by limited access to health care, poverty and low educational levels. However, when Taveras and her colleagues adjusted for socioeconomic status, they found that the prevalence of many of the risk factors remained the same.

More likely, Taveras says, the risk factors stem from behaviors and habits passed from generation to generation or that may be culturally embedded. "For a lot of patients I see in my clinic, it's intergenerational—for example, the grandmother in the home is influencing how her daughter feeds her own child." That's especially true when it comes to at what age mothers begin giving their infants solid food or when the mothers decide to stop breastfeeding, Taveras says.

"Sometimes trying to tackle those intergenerational influences can be very difficult, but actually, it's promising that some of the areas where we did find disparities are modifiable," Taveras notes. "Anyone who works with families of young children, including pediatricians and child care providers, can work on these issues."

The far more difficult task would be to address problems that are related to socioeconomic status. In this study, that didn't play as large a role because participants had access to good prenatal and pediatric care for their children and were well-educated.

"We found these striking disparities even in this population, where we had racial and ethnic minority families who were of relatively higher education and income," she says. "Imagine what the disparity would be in a population that's of lower socioeconomic status."

That's a question Taveras plans to tackle next. The goal now is to look at other novel risk factors that might be more common among minority populations—including those that will likely be tied to income and education.

"All of the risk factors that we examined in this study were known factors that have been published in the literature, including some of our own literatures," Taveras says. "But there are risk factors that are still understudied, that we have a sense are more common, and that's where we plan to go next."

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Written by Kelli Whitlock Burton

Full citation

Pediatrics, Volume 125, Number 4, April 2010

"Racial/Ethnic Differences in Early-Life Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity"

Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH (a,b); Matthew W. Gillman, MD, SM (a,c); Ken Kleinman, ScD (a); Janet W. Rich-Edwards, MPH, ScD (d); and Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, MPH (a, b)

(a) Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
(b) Division of General Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
(c) Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

(d) Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

Harvard Medical School (http://hms.harvard.edu/hms/home.asp) has more than 7,500 full-time faculty working in 11 academic departments located at the School's Boston campus or in one of 47 hospital-based clinical departments at 17 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes. Those affiliates include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Children's Hospital Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Forsyth Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Hebrew SeniorLife, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker Children's Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and VA Boston Healthcare System.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (http://www.hphc.org) is a not-for-profit health plan operating in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine with more than one million members. Harvard Pilgrim is the #1 commercial health insurance plan in America for the fifth consecutive year according to an annual joint ranking of the nation's best health plans by U.S.News & World Report.

David Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hms.harvard.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>