Clumsy kids have higher risk of obesity as adults
Published Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:40PM EDT
Clumsy kids who lack co-ordination aren't just prone to cuts and bruises. They're also at greater risk for becoming obese as adults, British researchers say.
Researchers analyzed data from the ongoing National Child Development Study in Great Britain that began in 1958.
They found that children who at age seven were identified as clumsy by their teachers, and who had poor hand control and co-ordination, were more likely to be obese as adults.
As well, 11-year-olds who were deemed to have poor hand control and co-ordination when evaluated by doctors were more likely to be obese at age 33.
The findings are published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.
Previous research has found a link between poor cognitive function in childhood and an increased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
As well, obesity in adults has been linked to the development of dementia. Researchers believe it leads to health problems like hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases that can impair cognitive function.
However, scientists also know that risk factors for some diseases develop very early in life.
For the British study, almost 8,000 subjects were tested at the age of seven on their ability to accurately copy a design, mark squares on a paper within a short time frame and the time it took to find 20 matching items.
Similar tests were performed by a doctor on almost 6,900 11-year-olds.
The researchers could not say for certain how poor cognitive function may influence the development of adult obesity.
"Some early life exposures, such as maternal smoking during pregnancy, or personal characteristics may impair the development of physical control and co-ordination, as well as increasing the risk of obesity in later life," the authors wrote.
"Rather than being explained by a single factor, an accumulation throughout life of many associated cultural, personal and economic exposures is likely to underlie the risks for obesity and some elements of associated neurological function."
Physical control and coordination in childhood and adult obesity: longitudinal birth cohort study
Walter Osika, research fellow, Scott M Montgomery, professor
Objective: To identify whether measures of childhood physical control and coordination as markers of neurological function are associated with obesity in adults.
Design: Longitudinal birth cohort study.
Setting: National child development study in Great Britain.
Participants: 11 042 people born during one week in 1958.
Main outcome measure: Obesity at age33 years defined as body mass index ��30.
Results: Among 7990 cohort members at age 7 years, teachers reported that poor hand control, poor coordination, and clumsiness "certainly applied" more often among those who would be obese adults, producing adjusted odds ratios of 1.57 (95% confidence interval 1.13 to 2.20; P=0.008) for poor hand control, 2.30 (1.52 to 3.46; P<0.001) for poor coordination, and 3.91 (2.61 to 5.87; P<0.001) for clumsiness. Among 6875 participants who had doctor administered assessments with continuous scores at age 11 years, poorer function was associated with later obesity, indicated by adjusted odds ratios (change in risk per unit increase in score) of 0.88 (0.81 to 0.96; P=0.003) for copying designs, 0.84 (0.78 to 0.91; P<0.001) for marking squares, and 1.14 (1.06 to 1.24; P<0.001) for picking up matches (a higher score indicates poor function in this test). Further adjustment for contemporaneous body mass index at age 7 or 11 years did not eliminate statistical significance for any of the associations.
Conclusion: Some aspects of poorer neurological function associated with adult obesity may have their origins in childhood.