Childhood obesity is a growing health concern worldwide. In recent years instances have nearly tripled, with 17 per cent of young people in the US now classified as obese. Previous studies have revealed that Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. According to a recent study, 15.6 per cent of Hispanic children aged between two and five years are obese, compared to 5.2 per cent of non-Hispanic white children of the same age.
The rate at which babies gain weight in the first few months after birth is often linked to their chances of being obese for the rest of their lives. However not enough is known about which factors might lead babies to be overweight by their first birthday.
Three in every ten (30.1 per cent) of Hispanic babies were found to be overweight aged 12 months, compared to just over one in every ten (13.6 per cent) non-Hispanic white children.
"The rate of excess weight in the Hispanic population was strikingly higher in this cohort, even at the very young age of 12 months," states Hazrati.
Interestingly, higher father BMI and higher maternal weight gain during pregnancy was associated with excess weight in non-Hispanic white children but not in Hispanic children. On the other hand, lower maternal education was associated with excess weight in the Hispanic children.
Although various social and cultural factors were found to have varying influence on the families in the different ethnic groups, in combination these did not fully explain the marked differences in weight gain between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white children. Hazrati suggests that these findings might point to an underlying genetic predisposition and epigenetic influences towards obesity in different ethnicities.
"As there are so many different factors influencing the development of obesity in young children, health authorities should consider developing personalized guidelines targeted to different populations in an effort to stem overall obesity in the US population," explains Khan.
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