Exposure to Pollutants tied to Childhood Obesity, Research Suggests

Air pollution and secondhand smoke were linked to higher incidences of childhood obesity, a long-term study suggests

Exposure to pollutants contribute to the development of childhood obesity and suggest that combined exposures may have synergistic effects, research suggests. 

Climbing obesity rates may be partly due to exposure to pollutants during youth, including secondhand smoke and air pollution, suggests a longitudinal study published this month in the journal of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Even after controlling for factors like sex, initial body mass index (BMI), physical activity, socio-economic status, residential history, physical activity, health insurance, and other considerations, the multi-year study indicated that environmental pollutants were correlated with obesity.

In comparison with children who had not been exposed to secondhand smoke or near-roadway pollution, body mass indices were .80 percent higher in children exposed to pollution alone, .85 percent higher in those exposed to secondhand smoke alone, and 2.15 percent higher in those exposed to both pollution and secondhand smoke.

“It would be interesting to know more about the mechanism,” lead author Dr. Rob McConnell, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, told The New York Times.

“But the finding challenges the view that obesity is due solely to increased caloric intake and reduced physical activity. That’s not the whole story.”

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.