Background Obesity is the most common nutritional problem in our country.
Objective To determine the prevalence of obesity among low-income inner-city children ages 2 to 17 years and to identify the association between obesity and the consumption of high calorie drinks (soda, juice, Kool-Aid, sweet tea), television viewing, and exercise.
Methods A prospective sample of mothers of children ages 2-17 years who presented at two inner-city university affiliated pediatric clinics were surveyed and anthropomorphic, demographic, and lifestyle variables obtained. Using a 6 ounce cup as a visual cue, mothers were asked how many servings of juice, Kool-Aid, sweet tea, soda, water, and milk their children consumed on a daily basis. Mothers were also asked to estimate the amount of exercise and television viewing their children received. The height and weight of each child were measured and BMI calculated.
Results The mothers of 504 children were surveyed (79.8% African-American, 91.9% Medicaid, 52.8% male). 112 (22.4%) children were overweight and 88 (17.5%) were at risk for being overweight. Older children (> 8 years) were more likely to watch > 2 hours of television per day (OR + 3.1 [2.1-4.6], p < .001) compared to younger children and were more likely to have a television in their bedroom (OR = 2.5 [1.6-3.9], p < .01). Mothers of older children were less likely to report one hour exercise per day (OR = 0.60 [0.40-0.87] p < .01). Overweight children were more likely to drink more than one 12 oz soda per day (OR = 2.4; 95% CI 1.4-4.2, p = .002) compared to thin children and this remained significant after controlling for age (p = .01). Juice consumption did not vary significantly between overweight and thin children.
Conclusion Children older than eight years are more likely to have a television in their bedroom and watch > 2 hours of TV per day. In addition, they appear to have decreased physical activity compared to younger children. These factors, along with increased consumption of sugar containing beverages, may be contributing factors to the rise in pediatric obesity.