Minority Kids at Risk for Obesity Even Before Birth, Study Says

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, In The News, Research Reveals: Babies

Family income, cultural customs and beliefs are all factors that put minority kids at risk for obesity -- before they even leave the womb.

According to the Associated Press, researchers looked at more than a dozen circumstances that can increase the chance of obesity and found that almost every one was more prevalent among black and Hispanic children than in their white peers.

Contributing factors besides income and culture include: sleep habits in infants, moms who smoked while pregnant, unusual and rapid weight gain in babies, starting solid food before the age of 4 months, letting very young children have fast food, sugar-laden beverages and/or a TV in their bedrooms.
The study shows that minorities are at a higher risk for almost every factor. According to the news service, Dr. Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical and the study's lead author, calls the findings "striking."

A second, equally alarming study shows that obese kids as young as 3 had signs of inflammation, with the highest levels being more common in blacks and Hispanics. This is troubling because inflammation may increase the odds of developing heart disease, and the study's authors were surprised to find it in kids so young.

"We think that fat cells in the body cause inflammation and that inflammation causes vessel damage," University of North Carolina researcher Asheley Cockrell Skinner, the lead author, tells the AP.

Both studies were released March 1 in the journal Pediatrics, and physicians are paying close attention to the results. Dr. Reginald Washington, a Denver pediatric heart specialist, tells the AP that the two studies serve to underscore the recent push by First Lady Michelle Obama to halt childhood obesity.

"You still have to get the public to say we believe this is a problem," Washington tells the news service. "Everybody's going to have to play a role here."

Twenty percent of black and Hispanic kids ages 2 to 19 are obese. The same holds true for only 15 percent of whites, according to the news service.

Related: Is Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Plan Enough?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.