Do Genes Play a Role in Childhood Obesity Rates?
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by scientists at Emory University agrees with previous recommendations on combating childhood obesity. The researcher team identified leading factors such as unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.
One major surprise from the study, however, was the role of genetics. 32 genes were already known as risk factors for obesity in adults. However, these genes do not seem to play the same role in obesity for children. The researchers used a new method called Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA) that compares people with similar genetic profiles. A child’s genes were actually found to be one of the biggest factors in whether or not they were likely to develop childhood obesity. In fact, researchers found that multiple genes working together accounted for 30% of the difference in the body weight of children.
Childhood obesity is an especially important marker because children are more easily able to lose and gain weight than adults. This means that reducing obesity in children will be a much easier way to create a healthy adult population than targeting adults for weight loss. Not to mention childhood obesity is more and more frequently being seen as an epidemic. Increasingly large numbers of children are developing high blood pressure and diabetes at startlingly young ages.
And while treatment interventions are available for children they are rarely used. Why? Because they are extremely expensive. They run anywhere from $1500 to $3000 and are not covered by any type of health insurance.