CHICAGO - The odds of obesity appear stacked against black and Hispanic children starting even before birth, provocative 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.
In a separate equally troubling study, researchers found signs of inflammation in obese children as young as 3 years old. High levels were more common in blacks and Hispanics.
“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.
Both studies were released today in the journal Pediatrics.
In the racial disparities study, risk factors examined included mothers’ smoking during pregnancy; unusually rapid weight gain in young infants; starting solid food before 4 months; mothers’ routinely pressuring children to eat more; and children sleeping less than 12 hours daily between 6 months and 2 years. Minorities were at higher risk than whites for nearly every one.
“It’s striking,’’ said lead author Dr. Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School.
The researchers questioned 1,826 Boston-area mothers, but Taveras said the study results apply to youngsters nationwide.