Research Roundup: Focus on childhood obesity

April 12th, 2010  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  3 Comments

Recent studies in the International Journal of Obesity:

Kids these days are getting fatter sooner and staying that way longer. In academese, reviewing data from 1976-2006, “Recent birth cohorts are becoming obese in greater proportions for a given age, and are experiencing a greater duration of obesity over their lifetime.” Lest we debate the measurement technique, obesity was defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 95th percentile for individuals aged 2–16 years or greater than or equal to 30 kg/m–2 among individuals older than 16 years. This is quite unambiguously obese regardless of fitness.

Factors involved in childhood obesity are complex. In a study of over 11,000 children in the UK, researchers found a few, somewhat disparate, factors intersected:

  • higher body mass index at age 3
  • Bangladeshi or black ethnicity (“black” here not otherwise defined, which is a problem given the diverse somatotypes covered under this vague category)
  • mother overweight during and/or after pregnancy
  • father overweight
  • smoking in proximity to child (either while mother was pregnant or in the household)
  • being an only child

Interestingly, although I think we can all agree that tons of TeeVee isn’t good for anyone, lots of TV affects children who are already overweight more than normal-weight children, suggesting a cumulative cascade.

Oh, and piglets are considered a good methodological proxy for children. Draw your own conclusions.

All studies in the latest ish of International Journal of Obesity (April 2010) 34 no.4.


  1. Emma B says:

    April 12th, 2010at 9:07 am(#)

    Obesity in toddlers and preschoolers is rarely unambiguous, because the measurement ranges are so narrow.

    As the mother of twin preschoolers, one of whom is “normal” (77%) at 37.5 lbs and and one of whom is nearly “obese” (93%) at 40.5 lbs, and believe me, that 3 lbs doesn’t make that much difference. While one is a little softer than the other, I very seriously doubt you’d pick her out of a lineup and say, hey, that kid’s OMGFAT. She wears the same size clothes as her sister (and that’s an age-appropriate size, not a plus size), and has no visual indicators of obesity like fat rolls or a double chin.

    My experience with my girls really makes me skeptical about the “childhood obesity crisis”. My kids experienced the same prenatal conditions, got the same environmental influences, have the same family history and socioeconomic background, and watch the same amount of TV. More importantly, they get exactly the same amount of exercise, and are fed *exactly* the same diet. Yet one’s considered normal and healthy, and one’s “obese” and at risk for all sorts of future health problems. It kinda makes you want to say WTF, and consider that maybe there’s more at work here than the gluttony/laziness narrative.

  2. inge says:

    April 12th, 2010at 4:38 pm(#)

    Won’t there always be exactly 5% who fall into the 95%+ percentile, or am I reading the measurement wrong?

  3. Mistress Krista says:

    April 12th, 2010at 5:08 pm(#)

    It’s not that there’s anything particularly special about 5%, but if you use it in conjunction with the known data spread it makes more sense to assign that as a cutoff.

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