Exposure to cigarettes, fine particles and nitrogen dioxide as well as population density are the main environmental factors of childhood obesity according to a study of more than 1,000 children in six countries.
The environment plays a major role in the health of children. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California (United States) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (Spain) shows that it is the main cause of obesity in children. At issue: exposure to cigarettes, pollution and a high population density. The results of the study were published on June 25 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In France, for the past ten years, obesity has affected 18% of little girls and 16% of little boys.
To carry out this study, the researchers analyzed data from 1,301 children aged 6 to 11, as well as that of their mothers, in six European countries (France, Greece, Lithuania, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom). The researchers used these data to assess children’s exposure to 77 environmental factors in utero, and 96 during childhood, such as exposure to pollution, tobacco, heavy metals, pesticides, and chemicals. green spaces. “Subjects are not exposed to only one chemical in their lifetime,” explained Dr. Lida Chatzi, head of the study. They are exposed to multiple chemicals. We try to understand the full range of environmental exposures with that in mind. ”
The main risk of childhood obesity is tobacco smoked by mothers during pregnancy. It is also the only prenatal factor that is significantly associated with the risk of obesity. Exposure to cigarette smoke during childhood is also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI), suggesting that quitting smoking is a way for both parents to protect the health of their children. . “This is a very important message,” said Dr Chatzi. Pregnant women who smoke and second-hand smoke are common factors around the world. ”
The other two factors that contribute to an increased risk of obesity in children are air pollution, both inside and outside the home, and a high population density at the level of the child’s place of residence. child. In France, one in three children breathes polluted air. City dwellers living in developed cities are even more concerned by this risk of obesity because “they walk very little because of public transport,” noted Professor Martine Vrijheid, lead author of the study.