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Pediatric Obesity: The Prevalence of Familial Risk Factors

1 August 2006


One in seven children in the United States is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as obese. Even with the increasing incidence of childhood obesity and early manifestations of the metabolic syndrome, little is known about the influence of the biological parents on the weight and health status of offspring, both genetically and environmentally. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the incidence of first generation medical conditions and lifestyle characteristics in CDCdefined obese children compared to CDC-defined normal weight children. Several studies indicate that specific environmental factors, and probable genetic factors, increase the risk of obesity during childhood. Body mass index (BMI) for-age-percentile data for 1406 children at a pediatric clinic, ages 2- 18, illustrated that 11 % were obese (BMI for-age-percentile greater than the 95th percentile). In this study, families of 24 children between the ages of 2-18, whose BMI for-age-percentile was 2: 95th %, (18 males; mean 10.58± 3.99 years; 95% confidence interval, CI = 1.60) were mailed a survey asking questions to identify a familial risk profile of environmental and lifestyle choices that may be linked to childhood obesity. The control group of the study was families of26 children within the 5th - 85th BMI for-age-percentile (14 males; 10.81 ± 4.45 years; CI=1.71), who recdved identical surveys to be used for comparison. The variables surveyed were maternal and paternal BMIs, level of parental education, number of household smokers, weekly rate of parental exercise, parental dieting, parental general health rating, personal and family medical history, having a television in the bedroom, total time of breastfeeding survey children, school absence rate of survey children, survey children's hospital admission rate, survey children's medication usage, survey children's activity level, and total time of video game and television viewing per week. When evaluating the correlations of these variables, the lifestyle choice of having a television in a child's bedroom was the variable related to a 2: 95th % for age-percentile BMI to be statistically significant (CI = 0.20; Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (PCC), r = 0.457; level of significance, P = 0.027) This evidence supports the conclusion that having a bedroom television is a lifestyle risk factor contributing to pediatric obesity. The remainder of the above variables were shown to be statistically non-significant. Further resolution of these familial risk factors is needed in future research.


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