CHICAGO — The odds of obesity appear stacked against black and Hispanic children starting even before birth, new research suggests.
The findings help explain disproportionately high obesity rates in minority children. Family income is often a factor, but so are cultural customs and beliefs, the study authors said.
They examined more than a dozen circumstances that can increase chances of obesity, and almost every one was more common in black and Hispanic children than in whites. Factors included eating and sleeping habits in infancy and early childhood and mothers smoking during pregnancy.
In a separate study, researchers found signs of inflammation in obese children as young as 3. High levels were more common in blacks and Hispanics.
These inflammatory markers have been linked with obesity in adults and are thought to increase chances for developing heart disease. Their significance in early childhood is uncertain, but the study's lead author says she never thought they'd be found in children so young.
"We think that fat cells in the body cause inflammation and that inflammation causes vessel damage," said University of North Carolina researcher Asheley Cockrell Skinner, the lead author.
The results suggest that 3-year-olds with inflammation might already have artery changes that could make then prone to later heart problems, although that needs to be examined in future research, she said.
Both studies were released today in the journal Pediatrics.
Autism: One in four U.S. parents believes some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, but even many of those worried about vaccine risks think their children should be vaccinated. Most parents continue to follow the advice of their children's doctors, according to a study based on a survey of 1,552 parents and published today in the April issue of Pediatrics. Extensive research has found no connection between autism and vaccines.