Being able to identify children “at risk” for weight problems may enable health professionals to help them cosmos clinic reviews long before those excess pounds start adding up.
“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of overweight children in America over the past decade,” said Dr. Margarita Treuth, a USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center scientist and Baylor College of Medicine assistant professor of pediatrics.
According to the latest national statistics, almost one in four children are at or above the 85th percentile of weight for height on pediatric growth charts and are considered overweight. “And while much has been written about children who are already overweight,” she said, “less is known about why some children begin to gain excess weight as fat in the first place.”
Treuth hopes to change that with a study designed to pinpoint factors involved in weight gain. She is following 100 normal weight 8-year-old girls over a period of two years, noting changes in weight and height as well as specific factors thought to be involved in weight gain.
While fat gain can be described as the storage of excess calories, the reasons behind this energy imbalance are complex. Heredity, family and social influences, the child’s tendency to be active or sedentary, and food choices all may play a role.
Children of overweight parents appear to have a 25 to 40 percent chance of becoming overweight adults according to some geneticists. “Heredity is important to a point, yet recent increases in childhood obesity cannot be totally attributed to genetic makeup,” Treuth said.
Overweight children are often less physically active. Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed children who watched four or more hours of television per day were more overweight and had a significantly greater amount of body fat.
Food choices may also play a role in excessive weight gain among individual children. Obese children have been found to consume a significantly greater proportion of their calories from fat.
“Overweight children face many social, psychological, and health problems,” said Treuth, “and if they remain overweight they are much more likely to experience weight-related illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers as they get older.”
According to Treuth, some of the girls in her study thus far have gained more weight than expected for normal growth. She believes that by analyzing the extensive profiles developed on each girl at the beginning of the study, she will find predictive factors that can identify normal weight children who are at risk for excessive weight gain. This information could then be incorporated into customized preventive programs.