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Study Tracks Obesity Among U.S. Hispanic
Children By Alfredo Flores
June 4, 2003
Understanding factors that contribute to obesity in the nation's
Hispanic children and youth is the objective of investigations under way at the
Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service, in
collaboration with the Southwest Foundation for
Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas, are in the third year of a
five-year study called "Viva la Familia," which is Spanish for "long live the
family." Nancy Butte, an ARS energy expert at the CNRC, is the study's
Childhood obesity is more prevalent among Hispanic children than
those of any other ethnic group in the United States. For the first time,
researchers are investigating the causes of childhood-onset obesity within this
population group. They hope to identify genetic and environmental factors that
make some children more prone to excess weight gain. Preliminary results have
already shown that 40 to 60 percent of the variation in obesity, also known as
adiposity, may be attributed to genetics.
In-depth metabolic and physiologic testing of volunteer children
and their parents has been done in three phases at the CNRC's
Unit. During the first phase, the volunteers were checked for weight and
height and for vital signs. Both children and parents received a body
composition scan to measure lean tissue and body fat. Parents gave blood
samples, while the children underwent an exercise test and answered questions
about their food consumption.
In the next phase, the children's energy expenditures were
measured, and blood samples were taken for genetic and biochemical analysis. At
the end of this one-day test, the children put on a device that monitored their
physical activity for the next three days.
A year later, the children's weight, height and body composition
were again measured. This phenotypic information was used to make connections
between specific genes or genetic patterns and gain in weight, body fat and
The CNRC is operated by Baylor
College of Medicine in cooperation with
Texas Children's Hospital
and ARS, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
More information about this research is in the
June issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.