Posts Tagged ‘ childhood obesity ’

Girls Called ‘Fat’ More Likely to Become Obese

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Calling a girl “fat” may result in a greater chance she’ll become obese later in childhood or life, according to new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.  More from Reuters:

The early stigma of being labeled that way may worsen the problem rather than encouraging girls to become healthier, but more research is needed to be sure, the study authors say.

“This study is one step closer to being able to draw that conclusion, but of course we can’t definitively say that calling a girl “too fat” will make her obese,” said senior author A. Janet Tomiyama of the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This study recruited girls when they were age 10 and followed them over nine years, so we know it’s more than just a one-time connection, which makes me believe that it’s an important question to continue researching,” Tomiyama told Reuters Health in an email.

She and her coauthor examined data from an existing study that followed girls through their teen years. At age 10, the girls answered the question, “have any of these people told you that you were too fat: father, mother, brother, sister, best girlfriend, boy you like best, any other girl, any other boy, or teacher?”

Out of just over 2,000 girls, a total of 1,188 answered “yes” to any of the choices.

Those girls were more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight relative to height – in the obese range ten years later than girls who answered “no,” according to the results in JAMA Pediatrics.

“We know from considerable evidence that youth who feel stigmatized or shamed about their weight are vulnerable to a range of negative psychological and physical health consequences,” said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

“This study suggests that negative weight labels may contribute to these experiences and have a lasting and potentially damaging impact for girls,” said Puhl, who was not part of the study.

Image: Heavy girl, via Shutterstock

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Severe Obesity on the Rise Among U.S. Kids

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Despite a spate of recent studies claiming a drop in the childhood obesity rate–especially one study that claimed a 43 percent drop in preschoolers with weight problems–new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found a sharp rise in the number of U.S. kids who are severely obese.  More from CNN:

The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.

Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category – meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.

“I think there’s certain kids who are at greatest risk for obesity,” said lead study author Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “When you put them in an environment like this one… they’re more likely to gain a whole lot of weight. That’s part of what’s going on.”

The risks associated with that extra weight are scary.

Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also at risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and psychological problems due to poor self-esteem. Studies show that obese children and adolescents are likely to remain obese as adults.

A separate study published in the journal Pediatrics this week estimates an obese child will incur anywhere from $12,000 to $19,000 in additional medical costs throughout his or her lifetime compared to a normal weight child.

Image: Blocks spelling “Obese,” via Shutterstock

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Early Childhood Hardships Can Lead to Lifelong Health Implications

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Piggy BankA study 42 years in the making found more than it was searching for, data reveals. Researchers set out to record the cognitive abilities of low-income children starting from infancy. One group was given full-time day care, meals, and stimulating activities while the other group was given nothing besides baby formula. And while the study organizers were expecting to connect children’s intellect with financial hardships (which they did), they also observed a relationship between those hardships and the overall health of the kids as they entered adulthood. More from The New York Times:

In 1972, researchers in North Carolina started following two groups of babies from poor families. In the first group, the children were given full-time day care up to age 5 that included most of their daily meals, talking, games and other stimulating activities. The other group, aside from baby formula, got nothing. The scientists were testing whether the special treatment would lead to better cognitive abilities in the long run.

Forty-two years later, the researchers found something that they had not expected to see: The group that got care was far healthier, with sharply lower rates of high blood pressure and obesity, and higher levels of so-called good cholesterol.

The study, which was published in the journal Science on Thursday, is part of a growing body of scientific evidence that hardship in early childhood has lifelong health implications. But it goes further than outlining the problem, offering evidence that a particular policy might prevent it.

“This tells us that adversity matters and it does affect adult health,” said James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who led the data analysis. “But it also shows us that we can do something about it, that poverty is not just a hopeless condition.”

The findings come amid a political push by the Obama administration for government-funded preschool for 4-year-olds. But a growing number of experts, Professor Heckman among them, say they believe that more effective public programs would start far earlier — in infancy, for example, because that is when many of the skills needed to take control of one’s life and become a successful adult are acquired.

The study in Science drew its data from the Carolina Abecedarian Project, in which about 100 infants from low-income families in North Carolina were followed from early infancy to their mid-30s. The project is well known in the world of social science because of its design: The infants were randomly assigned to one group or the other, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of the program. Such designs are the gold standard in medical research, but are rarely used in investigations that influence domestic social policy.

The researchers had already answered their original question about cognitive development: whether the treated children would, for example, be less likely to fail in school. The answer was yes. Over all, the participants’ abilities as infants were about the same, but by age 3 they had diverged. By age 30, those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.

“Forty years ago, it was all about cognition,” Professor Heckman said. “But it turned out that when you expand these capabilities — not only cognitive but social and emotional — one of the effects is better health. Nobody thought about that at the time.”…

What can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our Toddler Nutrition Quiz to find out!

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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About 1 in 3 Children Have High Cholesterol, Study Finds

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Childhood ObesityIn an alarming new study of more than 12,000 children with ages ranging from 9 to 11-years-old, 30 percent of them had “borderline” or “abnormal” cholesterol levels. And about 98 percent of those levels are caused by obesity, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition. According to the study’s author, high cholesterol levels in childhood are the greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood. More from USA TODAY:

Nearly one-third of children may have worrisome levels of cholesterol, putting them at risk for cardiovascular problems decades later, according to a new study.

The study of more than 12,000 9- to 11-year-olds, presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in Washington, found that 30 percent of those tested had “borderline” or “abnormal” levels of cholesterol.

“It’s a problem that’s underdiagnosed,” said study author Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston.

The greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood, Seery said, is the rate in childhood.

In 2011, an expert panel convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued guidelines that called, among other things, for cholesterol screening of all children before and at the end of adolescence. In the Houston study, researchers found that nearly 5,000 of the children were at risk for or had high cholesterol and roughly the same number were obese. It’s not clear whether they were tested for high cholesterol because they had a problem or if their screening was routine.

About 1 percent-2 percent of high cholesterol in children is due to inherited problems with cholesterol regulation, Seery said. The rest is caused by obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet.

“There’s no question that we are seeing alarming increases in obesity and elevated cholesterol levels in children and adolescents,” said Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was not involved in the study.

Nissen said he is not convinced that screening all kids for high cholesterol is an effective way to approach the problem. He’s concerned that extra screening will lead doctors to prescribe more medications to children.

Any obese child should be counseled about making lifestyle changes, even without knowing his or her cholesterol levels, Nissen said. There’s no proof that screening improves patient health, but it would cost a significant amount to run blood tests on every child, he said.

Seery disagrees, as does Robert Eckel, former president of the American Heart Association. They say universal screening would at least prompt a conversation between doctor and patient about the need for a healthy lifestyle.

“We really need to emphasize prevention, and that begins in childhood,” said Eckel, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. “This could be a good opportunity to sit down with parents and move them in the right direction.”

In other research presented at the conference today, doctors from New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan reported that married adults were less likely to have cardiovascular disease than people who are single, divorced or widowed. The study analyzed data on more than 3.5 million Americans and found that people who are married have a 5 percent lower risk of having any cardiovascular disease than being single.

In the study of 12,700 9- to 11-year-olds in Houston, researchers found:

• 37 percent had borderline or elevated levels of total cholesterol.

• 32 percent had borderline or low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

• 36 percent had borderline or elevated levels of non-HDL cholesterol.

• 46 percent had borderline or elevated levels of triglycerides.

What can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our Toddler Nutrition Quiz to find out!

Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating


Image: Closeup view of scales on a floor and kids feet via Shutterstock.

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Blood Test to Predict Whether a Child Will Become Obese?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

DNA-HelixResearchers have developed a test children can take around the age of five that may help identify children that are at risk for becoming obese. The test would analyze the PGC1a gene, which controls fat storage. The study leaders hope this test will help those kids with an increased risk to learn more about healthy living from an earlier age. More from the University of Southampton:

Scientists have found that a simple blood test, which can read DNA, could be used to predict obesity levels in children.

Researchers at the Universities of Southampton, Exeter and Plymouth used the test to assess the levels of epigenetic switches in the PGC1a gene – a gene that regulates fat storage in the body.

Epigenetic switches take place through a chemical change called DNA methylation which controls how genes work and is set during early life.

The Southampton team found that the test, when carried out on children at five years old, differentiates between children with a high body fat and those with a low body fat when they were older. Results showed that a rise in DNA methylation levels of 10 per cent at five years was associated with up to 12 per cent more body fat at 14 years. Results were independent of the child’s gender, their amount of physical activity and their timing of puberty.

Dr Graham Burdge, of the University of Southampton who led the study with colleague Dr Karen Lillycrop, comments: “It can be difficult to predict when children are very young, which children will put on weight or become obese. It is important to know which children are at risk because help, such as suggestions about their diet, can be offered early and before they start to gain weight.

“The results of our study provide further evidence that being overweight or obese in childhood is not just due to lifestyle, but may also involve important basic processes that control our genes. We hope that this knowledge will help us to develop and test new ways to prevent children developing obesity which can be introduced before a child starts to gain excess weight. However, our findings now need to be tested in larger groups of children.”

The study, which also involved Professor Terence Wilkin at the University of Exeter and Dr Joanne Hosking at the University of Plymouth, is published in the journal Diabetes. The researchers used DNA samples from 40 children who took part in the EarlyBird project, which studied 300 children in Plymouth from the age of five until they were 14 years old.

Led by Professor Wilkin, the study assessed the children in Plymouth each year for factors related to type 2 diabetes, such as the amount of exercise they undertook and the amount of fat in their body. A blood sample was collected and stored. The Southampton team extracted DNA from these blood samples to test for epigenetic switches.

Professor Wilkin says: “The EarlyBird study has already provided important information about the causes of obesity in children. Now samples stored during the study have provided clues about the role of fundamental processes that affect how genes work, over which a child has no control. This has shown that these mechanisms can affect their health during childhood and as adults.”

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Dna double helix molecules and chromosomes via Shutterstock

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