CHICAGO – A striking new study says almost 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese.
Researchers were surprised to see differences by race at so early an age.
Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.
“The magnitude of these differences was larger than we expected, and it is surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood,” said Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher. She conducted the research with Temple University’s Dr. Robert Whitaker.
Without interventions, the next generation “will be at very high risk” for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, joint diseases and other problems connected with obesity, said Dr. Glenn Flores, a pediatrics and public health professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.
The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001. The results appear in Monday’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Almost 13 percent of Asian children were obese, 16 percent of whites, almost 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 31 percent of American Indians.