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Kids' obesity not linked to shortage

January 28, 2008|From Times wire reports

New research discounts a common theory on why poor children are more likely to be overweight than children from wealthier families, showing that a lack of food isn't necessarily to blame.

Previous research has suggested that poor children weren't getting nutritious food and instead ate junk food, such as hot dogs. Or that children may have eaten well when money was available but would skip meals when cash was short, a cycle that could slow their metabolism and cause them to gain weight.

For the study, Iowa State University researchers analyzed 1999 data about 1,031 children living in low-income households in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio. They assessed whether the children had enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle, which is called food security by researchers. They looked at the individual child, instead of the entire household, as previous studies had done.

The researchers asked the children's mothers whether they had reduced the size of a meal due to lack of food or money, if a child skipped a meal because food wasn't available and if a child went hungry because they couldn't afford more food.

Researchers found that about half of the children in the study were overweight or obese, but only about 8% weren't getting enough to eat.

Craig Gundersen, lead author of the study, said children who didn't get enough food weren't more likely to be overweight, even though the two factors often coexisted in the low-income population they studied.

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