-- A large study of young children reveals Hispanic kids are more likely to become obese by the time they are 3 years old. But researchers are perplexed as to the reason why.
The investigation was conducted among more than 2,400 children who were followed from birth to age 3. Mothers were interviewed while still in the hospital after giving birth and then again when their children were 1 year old and 3 years old. Slightly more than half of the children were black, a quarter were Hispanic, about a fifth were white, and the remainder were of other races.
The researchers, from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., in Princeton, N.J., specifically looked at three key factors involved in the development of obesity among children: mother's educational level, household income and food security (defined having access to food). Overall obesity rates among the group were 25.8 percent for Hispanics, 16.2 percent for blacks, and 14.8 percent for whites. However, none of the three key factors could explain the difference.
The authors believe these findings suggest "other, unidentified factors, including genes conferring susceptibility to obesity, are the more likely explanation" for the higher obesity rates among the Hispanic children.
Regardless of the cause, however, they emphasize more needs to be done to identify children prone to obesity early on in life so that the condition can be brought under control. "Future research into modifiable determinants of this disparity should focus on the period from conception to school entry," they conclude.
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