Study Finds Nearly One in Five Four-Year-Olds Obese; Condition More Common Among Some Minorities, Especially American Indians
Nearly one in five U.S. four-year-olds -- or more than 500,000 -- are obese, and childhood obesity rates are "alarmingly higher" in certain minority populations, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. For the study, Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher, and Robert Whitaker of Temple University analyzed nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001 who were part of a study by the National Center on Educational Statistics. The children were measured in their homes as part of the study.
The study found that 31% of American Indian children, 22% of Hispanic children, nearly 21% of black children, 16% of white children and 13% of Asian children were obese. Anderson said that it was "surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood." According to Anderson, the study is the first to study national obesity rates in preschool kids in the five ethnic or racial groups.
Glenn Flores, a pediatrics and public health professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School who was not involved with the study, said the research is an important contribution to studies that document racial and ethnic disparities in children's weight.
Potential Reasons for Disparities
The study did not look for reasons behind the obesity rate disparities. Contributing factors to obesity -- such as poverty, less-educated parents, and diets high in fat and calories -- are more common among minorities, the AP/Daily Star reports.
Jessica Burger, a member of the Little River Ottawa Tribe and health director of a tribal clinic in Manistee, Mich., said that gestational diabetes -- which is nearly twice as common in American Indian women as white women -- can increase a child's risk of becoming overweight. Burger also said that the federal commodity program for low-income people, which many American Indian families receive, contains few fruits or vegetables but many high-carbohydrate foods that could lead to obesity. Burger added that exercise is not necessarily a priority for many low-income American Indian families (Tanner, AP/Arizona Daily Star, 4/7).
An abstract of the study is available online.