Hispanic 3-year-olds more likely to be obese than black or white children

A study of more than 2,400 children in 20 U.S. cities suggests that Hispanic 3-year-olds have a higher prevalence of obesity than black or white 3-year-olds, a disparity that does not seem to be explained by socioeconomic factors typically linked to childhood obesity, according to an article in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Researchers know that by the time U.S. children reach adolescence, there are disparities in the prevalence of obesity among racial and ethnic groups, according to background information in the article. However, little is known about the age at which these differences begin to appear. Their origins may lie in the preschool years because eating and exercise habits develop early and because a mother's obesity before and immediately after birth may influence her child's risk.

Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., M.P.H., and Sean M. Orzol, M.P.H., of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Princeton, N.J., studied 2,452 children born in 75 U.S. hospitals between 1998 and 2000. Mothers were surveyed in the hospital after giving birth and again one and three years later, answering questions about their ethnic background, education level, income and access to food. The three-year survey was an in-home interview, during which researchers also measured the height and weight of the children. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated by dividing the children's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. Children who had BMIs at the 95th percentile or higher for their age and sex were considered obese.

About 19 percent of the children were white, 52.2 percent were black, 25.4 percent were Hispanic and 3.1 percent were another race or ethnicity. At the three-year interview, 18.4 percent of all the children were obese, including 25.8 percent of Hispanic children, 16.2 percent of black children and 14.8 percent of white children; Hispanic children had significantly hi

Contact: Cheryl Pedersen
JAMA and Archives Journals

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