Risk Factors: Other


Lt Col Phillips
Along with diet and activity, there are a variety of other factors that can influence a child’s energy balance and risk for obesity. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about some of these?

Dr. Patel
You bet, Dr. Phillips. There are many environmental and economic factors that can play a role in diet and activity level. For example, many neighborhoods don’t have access to safe, affordable places for kids to play, such as parks or, in some cases, even sidewalks. Another problem is access to healthy food. Many families are unable to afford healthy foods, or the stores that sell healthy foods are simply too far away. These realities can make it difficult for lower income families to help their children maintain energy balance.

Another risk factor is genetics. Obesity tends to run in families, and part of this may be due to genetic traits that determine how the body stores and uses fat. However, genes aren’t the only things that families have in common. Shared lifestyle habits can also play an important role in a child’s balance of energy.

One last risk factor to consider is breastfeeding. Studies have shown that breastfeeding protects against childhood obesity. While many mothers start out breastfeeding, fewer and fewer babies are being exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. For working mothers, it can be especially difficult to continue breastfeeding once their maternity leave ends. It’s important to encourage and support mothers who want to breastfeed their children.