New research suggests that even before they’re born, minority children face many obesity risks. One study concluded that cultural customs, beliefs and family income are all factors which contribute to obesity. The other study showed that obese children exhibit signs of inflammation at a very young age.The two studies were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
In the first study, researchers looked at data from 16,000 children, ages 1 to 17, who had blood tests between 1999 and 2006. Inflammation markers were analyzed including a C-reactive protein, or CRP, which has been linked to heart disease in adults. High levels of CRP were found in children as young as 3 years old with even higher levels in black and Hispanic children.
Ashley Cockrell Skinner, the lead author in the study, said she was very surprised to find the markers in such young children. She stressed that it’s unlikely the high levels will cause problems at age 3. It’s unclear if lowering CRP levels at such a young age would make a difference.
The second study published in the Journal of Pediatrics analyzed racial disparity. Researchers spoke with 1,826 mothers in the Boston area. They looked at several factors: mothers pressuring children to eat more, mothers who smoked during pregnancy, allowing children to have sugary drinks, fast food and televisions in their rooms, rapid weight gain in very young infants, starting solid food before 4 months, and children sleeping less than 12 hours a day, between 6 months and 2 years.
Minorities were found at greater risk for all of these factors. Lead author of the study Dr. Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School explained that while some traits are common in low-income, less educated families, including whites, researchers accounted for it and still found that “race was a factor regardless of income.”
Taken together these studies can be useful if they become a starting point to help families and society prevent the behaviors that can cause obesity. This on-going battle needs to focus on the many factors which in fact contribute to the data highlighted in the study, and not stop at the immediate causes.
The research can be a good starting point to ask ourselves why we allow children to have sugary drinks or unhealthy food. As Madeline Holler pointed out here at Babble, personal responsibility is important, but a heavy advertising campaign that puts Barbie sugar filled cereal against carrots and celery is a tough one to win, even for determined parents.
Making good choices often depends on available alternatives. Until Dora decides to put a carrot in her backpack, or stick her face on a green bean frozen package, it may be an uphill battle.