Children from poor families are prone to obesity

Children living in families with fewer resources have, as ‘compensation’, increased risk of overweight and obesity. Specifically, they are two to three times more likely to be overweight, according to a new study just published by the European Journal of Public Health, and based on nearly 20,000 households.

Numerous studies indicate that socioeconomic inequalities influence the risk of obesity from an early age and other works also suggest that the influence of these conditions may extend over a long time. As Yvonne Kelly from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, argues “these inequities probably represent less access to information and more difficulties to implement certain healthy habits”.

Given that there is limited evidence about the risk factors that accentuate the socioeconomic disfavouring and, consequently, weight gain, a team of researchers has developed a precisely working to deepen the bases of the association. To do this, Kelly and his colleagues analyzed nearly 20,000 families in the UK and took measurements when kids had five and 11 years.

The link between poverty and childhood obesity was clearly marked. At five years, poor children were almost twice as likely to be obese compared to their wealthier peers. Among the least deprived, 6.6% were obese, while among the more privileged children, the figure was reduced to 3.5%. At age 11, the gap widens almost tripling the incidence (7.9% vs. 2.9%).

The study’s authors examined several aspects of behavior and health of each child. Thet took into account, for example, if the mother smoked during pregnancy, how long they breastfed or if the child started eating solid foods before four months. It is also mentioned if the parent was overweight. Making this type of study is important, as it gives clues about how to intervene and prevent at this stage, at which time the family environment plays an important role for the healthy development of children and, consequently, has the potential to be particularly effective.

The experts also evaluated the frequency of daily physical exercise of the participants, interactive plays with their parents, the hours spent watching television or playing computer, bicycle rides and even sleep. Eating habits were noted. For example, if the child breakfast, daily fruit and vegetable intake skipped refreshments. Given that certain lifestyle factors are accompanied by lower levels of income, should make a bet on early intervention for parents. Evidence from our work suggests that this should begin before birth or even during pregnancy.

According to the survey results, Kelley concludes, sports more than three times a week plays a major role as protector against overweight, like going to bed earlier and regularly consumption of fruits. Instead, factors such as smoking during pregnancy or body mass index of the mother, could pose an additional risk of obesity of 20% for the child. However, experts say the work should be carried out more research to effectively increase interventions aimed at reducing childhood obesity.

To the end, currently there are some government initiatives, such as the Change4Life program or campaigns “five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day” and “10, 000 steps a day”. The findings support the development of prevention strategies.