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Study: Common Cold Linked With Childhood Obesity

September 27, 2010

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Junk food and a lack of exercise often lead to obesity, but there's a new link to the common cold. UC-San Diego researchers found obese children were three times more likely to have been exposed to a common cold virus (adenovirus 36) than those of normal weight. However, health experts warn parents not to be too quick to solely blame the virus for a child's weight gain; it's also possible that being overweight leads to higher susceptibility.

A recent study commissioned by the child advocacy group First 5 LA found that one in four children enrolled in preschools is obese. Spokeswoman Jenny Chheang, senior program officer with First 5 LA, says the numbers are disturbing, as obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, putting them at risk for a variety of health problems.

"It's not just the prevalence of diabetes, but many other issues such as heart disease, strokes. And we also know that there's a lot of social stigma around that that can really affect children's overall healthy development and emotional development."

The solution? Chheang says communities have to work together to make sure children and their families have access to affordable healthy foods, and safe places for children to exercise and play.

"We know that in many communities in LA County parents don't feel that it's safe for them to walk to those communities, and so we want to really work with residents to advocate that their communities have safe lighting and have safe streets and that there's a police presence, so that children can use all the play spaces that are available to them."

First 5 LA is putting their theory to the test: under their "Best Start" communities program, the non-profit will be putting resources into 14 areas in LA County. Chheang says the goal is to improve the well-being of children from before birth through age five.

"We conducted focus groups and interviews to try and understand what are the existing constraints and capacities in those communities. So across the high-need communities we really wanted to work in places where a lot is already happening and where we could partner with families and with parents and see success in those areas."

President Obama has proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

More information is at www.first5la.org. Findings are from the journal Pediatrics: pediatrics.aapublications.org

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA