Weight Gain in Children

In the longitudinal study, researchers were determined to track and identify possible causes of adolescent weight gain in hopes of finding an area of effective intervention. The study included 652 children aged 4, 6 and 8 with follow-ups every two years as well as regular community health checkpoints. The body mass index and body fat phenotypes were measured for each of the children at the beginning and throughout the study. Of the beginning 652, nine percent were overweight and just .2 percent were obese. Additionally, genetic risks for obesity were measured using a genetic risk score for 32 single-nucleotide polymorphisms. The results of the study indicated that children with a higher genetic risk for obesity gained weight and fat mass much faster than those without. The study was looking more specifically at the appetite traits of individuals with and without the genetic risk for obesity in order to eventually use this as a means of treating and preventing obesity, especially in the younger populations. The study revealed that those children with a higher genetic risk for obesity had higher levels of obesogenic appetite traits meaning that their decision making and portion control were poor in comparison to a healthy individual.

Identifying this specific problem with weight gain in the adolescent population is significant in making a future change in the developments and obesity patterns of children. Knowing what area to target for intervention can help lead to a more successful treatment plan. The results of the study ultimately lead to the idea that education is a large part of the treatment plan. Teaching families including parents and the children at risk, how to eat healthy can avoid the significant weight gain associated with the genetic risk that may be unavoidable. As my future role in the field of medicine, I can make an impact with direct patient care and counseling to aide in the education process of treating and changing the appetite traits of children with a genetic risk for obesity.

JAMA Pediatrics. 2016;170(2)

Genetic Risks for Weight Gain in Early Childhood

This study looked at genetic risks and the development of obesity by accelerating weight gain in childhood. This type of research is needed to identify ways to inform intervention. Also, longitudinal studies, as this study is, are helpful in determining if appetite traits mediate genetic influences on weight gain. Participants were enrolled at age 4 (995 children) with follow-ups at ages 6 (795 children) and 8 (699 children). children at higher genetic risk for obesity had higher baseline body mass index and fat mass compared with lower genetic risk peers. They also gained weight and fat mass more rapidly during follow-up. Each standard deviation increase in genetic risk score was associated with a 0.22 point increase in BMI at age 4 baseline. Children with higher genetic risk scores gained BMI points more rapidly from ages 4 to 6.

The conclusion in this study was that genetic risk for obesity is associated with accelerated childhood weight gain. Another interesting point in this study is that children at higher genetic risk also had higher levels of obesogenic appetite trait, but these traits did not have association with weight gain.

I think there are some questions we can ask and take away from this. Is there any way to overcome genetics? Is trying to eat healthier and exercising not worth it if you have bad genetics in the first place? Most importantly, how can we as pharmacists help in educating families of overweight young children? Childhood obesity can lead to disease states such as diabetes which is a huge problem in this country. What role can we play?

JAMA Pediatr. 2016; 170(2)