Can a simple blood test predict obesity in children?
Researchers in England say a simple blood test could be used to predict whether a child is destined to become obese.
Using a blood test to read DNA, the researchers looked closely at the “epigenetic switches,” inside a particular gene that regulates fat storage in the body. The switches trigger a chemical change called “DNA methylation,” and is set early in life.
A study conducted by scientists at the Universities of Southampton, Exeter and Plymouth, followed 300 kids beginning at age 5 until they reached 14 years old and compared their body fat levels at both ages.
The findings showed that a rise in DNA methylation levels of 10 percent among five year olds resulted in nearly 12 percent more body fat than average when the child reached 14 years. The body fat percentage was independent of gender and physical activity.
Study authors say the discovery may help at risk kids get help early on.
“It can be difficult to predict when children are very young, which children will put on weight or become obese. It is important to know which children are at risk because help, such as suggestions about their diet, can be offered early and before they start to gain weight,” said Dr. Graham Burdge of the University of Southampton in a news release.
Dr. Burdge says the results show that obesity isn’t just a matter of poor eating habits.
“The results of our study provide further evidence that being overweight or obese in childhood is not just due to lifestyle, but may also involve important basic processes that control our genes,” he said. “We hope that this knowledge will help us to develop and test new ways to prevent children developing obesity…”
Childhood obesity remains a huge problem in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010.
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