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Ethnicity a predictor of obesity in children

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New research has found that children who speak English as a second language and are from Middle Eastern or Asian families, are more likely to be overweight or obese and have lower levels of physical fitness.

A University of Sydney study of NSW primary school children found ethnicity was a significant predictor of obesity, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness.

Researchers analysed data from about 5000 primary school children and found about 35 percent of Middle Eastern and 28 per cent of Asian children were overweight or obese, compared with 22 per cent of children from English-speaking backgrounds.

The research found Middle Eastern boys from low socio-economic backgrounds were twice as likely to be obese as English-speaking boys, and three times as likely to have low cardiorespiratory fitness. Similar results were observed for Middle Eastern girls and Asian boys but, interestingly, not Asian girls.

The study suggested several behaviours, such as skipping breakfast, drinking too much soft drink, being rewarded with sweets, and regularly eating energy dense, nutrient poor foods were contributing to the increased risk of developing weight problems.

Lead author Dr Debra Hector said the research indicated governments should consider public health campaigns specifically targeted at Middle Eastern and Asian families.

“Our results indicate the need for obesity prevention initiatives to target children and their families from Middle Eastern and Asian backgrounds who live in low socio-economic areas,” Dr Hector said

“They need to reach, and be culturally appropriate for, children who are most at risk.”

The research was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health



Image by Ed Yourdon on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence