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Predictors of weight gain in school children

Childhood obesity is a growing public health concern given the rising prevalence rates observed in both developed and developing countries. There are a multitude of health-related consequences that worsen into adulthood. Current estimates demonstrate that about 25% of children are overweight or obese. Given that obesity tracks into adulthood understanding why and how it emerges in early life is critical to developing effective preventative efforts.

In the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a recent analysis explored predictors of BMI change, overweight and obesity in school children. This was conducted in a prospective manner using a cohort of Irish school children 6-10 years of age. Height and weight were assessed objectively and lifestyle factors through a questionnaire with parents. These measurements were assessed five years apart at baseline and follow-up. Logistical regression models were then run by the researchers to understand the associations.

Initial BMI was the main predictor of subsequent overweight and obesity in schoolchildren, followed by the socioeconomic status of the school. Schools in disadvantaged areas had higher rates of obesity. Alongside this processed food consumption, lower levels of participation in sport clubs and low fruit intake was associated with higher levels of obesity. These findings illustrate the need for programmes aimed at preventing obesity with a focus on early years and disadvantaged communities.

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