MONDAY, June 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Certain risk factors during infancy may help explain the higher rate of obesity among black and Hispanic children, according to a new study.
Rapid infant weight gain, early introduction of solid foods, inadequate sleep and a lack of exclusive breast-feeding are among the early-life risk factors that account for this racial and ethnic disparity in childhood obesity, the study showed. Most of these risk factors, however, can be changed, the researchers said.
"We know that by the age of 2, black and Hispanic children have close to double the rate of obesity of white children in the United States," Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, said in a hospital news release.
Taveras led the study while she was at Boston Children's Hospital.
The majority of known early-life risk factors for childhood obesity and overweight are more common among black and Hispanic children, the study found, including:
- Rapid infant weight gain
- Non-exclusive breastfeeding
- Introduction of solid foods before 4 months of age
- Sleeping less than 12 hours daily
- Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages
- Eating fast food frequently
- Having a television in the bedroom
The study followed a group of more than 1,000 children from early pregnancy through age 7. Their mothers were examined at the end of their first and second trimesters. The children were assessed shortly after delivery and again when they were 6 months, 3 years and 7 years old.
Researchers measured the children's height, weight and body fat. They also compiled socioeconomic data and information on known obesity risk factors.
The study, published online June 3 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that by the age of 7, black and Hispanic children had nearly double the incidence of obesity or overweight than white children.
"A 2010 White House Task Force report on childhood obesity highlighted the disturbingly increasing trends of obesity among racial and ethnic minority children and the importance of early-life risk factors," Taveras said. "Our study supports that report by demonstrating that a significant percent of these disparities can be explained by early-life risk factors, which has tremendous implications for the development of interventions at all levels. These results are important for all adults who work with young children and their families."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on childhood obesity.