URBANA University of Illinois scientists from a variety of disciplines have teamed up to examine the factors that contribute to childhood obesity. Why? Because individual researchers have found that the problem is too complicated for any of them to tackle alone.
"Our Strong Kids team members are looking at such diverse factors as genetic predisposition, the effect of breastfeeding, how much TV a child watches, and the neighborhood he lives in, among many others," said Kristen Harrison of the U of I's Division of Nutritional Sciences. "It seems like the answer should be simple, just eat less and exercise more, but when you look at the reasons that kids overeat and burn fewer calories, it turns out there are a lot of them."
Harrison and other Strong Kids team members received funding for a three-year longitudinal study and are applying for support to keep the research going. The scientists have collected and analyzed two generations of data on approximately 400 families, and they are beginning a third wave of data collection. Individual studies, including communication professor Harrison's own examination of preschoolers' television viewing and eating habits, are ongoing.
But the first step was developing a model for studying the problem. The team's Six Cs model will examine the problem of childhood obesity from the following angles: cell, child, clan (or family), community, country and culture. A paper detailing their approach appeared in a recent issue of Child Development Perspectives.
"From 30 to 40 percent of the population has a variety of genetic markers that puts them at greater risk for obesity," said professor of nutrition Margarita Teran-Garcia, who is approaching the problem at the cellular level. As a starting point, she is taking saliva samples from preschoolers in the study group to map their genetic susceptibility to obesity.
Child development professor Kelly Bost is looking at the quality of
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University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences