TUESDAY, June 6, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that Hispanic 3-year-olds are much more likely to be obese than either black or white children of the same age.
This study provides an initial look into why weight disparities exist between races in adolescents, because not much is known about when these disparities first show up.
The preschool years may be particularly indicative of adolescent obesity, since diet and exercise habits are formed early in life. Obesity risk factors for children may also be indicated by a mother's weight before and after birth.
Researchers studied 2,452 children born across the United States between 1998 and 2000, and interviewed mothers across the three-year period, starting in the hospital after birth. New mothers were asked about their ethnicity, educational background, income and food supply.
Children were also surveyed, and height, weight and body mass were recorded. Obesity was considered for any child with a BMI in the 95th percentile.
The results appear in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
At the end of the three-year survey, 18.4 percent of all of the children were recorded as obese. Nearly 30 percent of Hispanic children were obese, while only about 16 percent of black children and almost 15 percent of white children were obese. Even when researchers made adjustments for factors such as a mother's education, income and food availability, Hispanic children were still more likely to be obese.
"This disparity in obesity between Hispanic and non-Hispanic children seems to develop early in life, so future research into modifiable determinants of this disparity should focus on the period from conception to school entry," researchers Dr. Robert C. Whitaker, M.P.H., and Sean M. Orzol, M.P.H, of Mathematica Policy Research Inc. in Princeton, N.J., said in a prepared statement. "This research might benefit from more emphasis on qualitative studies across racial/ethnic groups of cultural factors that can influence energy balance, such as how young children are nourished or spend their time."
The American Obesity Association has more information on childhood obesity.