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Children Of Obese Parents At High Risk For Diabetes & Being Overweight
Posted: Monday, July 19, 2004
The findings of this study suggest that at-risk children may be identifiable in the first few years of life,” said W. Stewart Agras, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, whose team assessed both established and hypothesized risk factors in a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. “Several of the identified risk factors are amenable to intervention, which could lead to the development of early prevention programs.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established two categories of overweight children: those who are “at risk,” meaning they have a body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) above the 85th percentile, and those considered “severe,” meaning a BMI above the 95th percentile. In the most recent survey, more than 30 percent of children were considered at risk. And the prevalence of severely overweight children, 15 percent, has doubled during the past 20 years.
The National Institutes of Health has reported that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, which keeps them at high risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
While numerous risk factors for overweight children have been identified – including low socioeconomic status, higher birth weight and lack of physical activity – few studies have examined these factors in infancy and early childhood. “It’s important to identify risk factors because they may provide a way to alter the child’s environment and reduce the chance of becoming overweight,” Agras said.
During the exploratory study of 150 children, Agras and his colleagues began tracking 74 boys and 76 girls and their parents upon the child’s birth. Attributes and behaviors were assessed until the child was 5 years old and were then used to predict whether the child would be overweight at 9.5 years. Monitored areas included parent weight, infant weight, parent/infant feeding practices, parent eating behaviors, child eating behaviors, child caloric intake, child activity, child temperament, child sleep time and parents’ concerns about their child’s weight, among others.
The researchers found that 25 percent of the children were in the 85th percentile of BMI at 9.5 years of age, including 9 percent that were in the 95th percentile. They also found that 64 percent of children with overweight parents became overweight, compared with 16 percent of those with normal-weight parents. Agras said parental obesity represented the most potent risk factor, a finding that confirms previous observations, and the connection between overweight parents and overweight children is likely due to a combination of genetics and family environmental influences.
Agras also noted that a child’s temperament altered the effect of a parent’s obesity; 46 percent of children with a sensitive disposition and an overweight parent became overweight, compared with 19 percent of children without this disposition. Temperament also played a role in weight for children with normal-weight parents. Agras said it is likely that parents with emotional children feed them to reduce the frequency of tantrums instead of using non-food methods. “It’s probably not a good idea to use food as a calmer,” he said, adding that parents of these children might benefit from education programs. “If we can identify kids with difficult temperaments we could educate parents not to use food as a reward.”
Source: Diabetes In Control
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