One in five 4-year-old preschoolers are considered obese, according to a new study published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study suggests, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese. Obesity is more prevalent in Hispanic and black children, but the disparity is most startling in American Indian children, whose rate is nearly double that of whites.
The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on preschoolers born in 2001. The children were part of a study conducted by the government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Researchers found nearly 13 percent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 percent of whites, about 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics and lastly 31 percent of American Indians.
If the child was in the 95th percentile or higher based on government BMI growth charts they were considered obese. For 4-year-olds that would be a BMI of 18. Obesity was determined by body-mass index (BMI), the measure of body fat based on height and weight.
The study supports other research in this area, says Dr. Heather Austin with Children’s Hospital. But, Austin says, parents shouldn’t jump to conclusions about their child’s weight.
“It’s tough discern between a healthy weight and an overweight child. This is where parents should turn to their pediatricians and say, “show me the BMI.”
For parents that find out their child is overwight, Dr. Austin suggests, increasing physical acivity, rather than dieting.
We recommend healthy habits including eating and activities so that as the child grows, their weight will stabilize and the child will grow into it.
Children Who Lack Self-Control, Prone To Obesity Later In Life
Another study also published in this month’s Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests parents need to model self-control as part of teaching it to their children. Doing so can be a valuable weapon in the battle against childhood obesity.
The study, which followed 800 children beginning at age 4 and followed up at age 11, found that children who are able to delay gratification are less likely to be overweight.
For the study, a group of 4-year-old was asked to choose pretzels, candy or animal crackers as one of their favorite foods. Examiners then left them alone with two plates of different quantities of the food.
They could eat a larger portion of their chosen food if they waited until an examiner returned. If they could not wait, they could ring a bell to summon the examiner back to the room, at which time they could eat the small quantity.
Nearly half, about 47 percent of the 800 children, failed the test for one of the following reasons: ringing the bell before the seven-minute waiting period, spontaneously eating the food, becoming distress, going to the door or calling for the examiner or parent.
Those children who had difficulty delaying gratification ere about 30 percent more likely to be overweight by age 11 than those that could delay gratification, says study coauthor Dr. Julie Lumeng, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan Health System.
Dr. Lumeng notes, the weight of the mother also made a difference in the child’s ability to wait to eat.
Maternal weight status on child weight reflects genetic as well as environmental factors, both which are possible explanations for this finding, she said.
The study findings suggest, if parents hope to lower the risk of obesity in their kids, they need to teach them delayed gratification and model the same behavior, Lumeng says. #