Race As a Factor in Child Obesity

The thing about research on anything related to race or ethnicity, is the importance of distinguishing between the honest scholarly pursuit of knowledge and the promotion of a harmful agenda. Unfortunately, we live in a world where even the proudest educational institutions and the most highly-credentialed individuals have been shown to cheat.

Sketchy information about many subjects has been disseminated. To the earnest student, everything is worth noticing, but not everything is worth taking into consideration, because those are two different realms of consciousness. Keeping all that in mind, some things that might have been seen as danger signals in the past have been accepted, and rightly, as sad but true.

For instance, it would be easy to sneer at any study that says something like, “The research shows that obesity is a multifactorial disease.” We have learned to be suspicious, and to see the vague, blanket statement as a red flag that warns, “charlatan.” But — and this is a big but — increasingly we hear this confession from the most venerable bastions of education. Droves of very intelligent experts are saying, in effect, “We looked for something definitive, and this obesity problem is a lot bigger than we thought.”

Doubling down

“Exponential” is a word with a meaning, and it means trouble. Check out this video clip, where each square of a chessboard holds twice as many rice grains as the one before. Now imagine each grain of rice is a new factor added into a multifactorial problem.

With every different parameter and nuance a study encompasses, the requirements multiply alarmingly. To make sense of a multifactorial problem takes a lot of time and money. We can’t blame science for a lack of definitive answers, because wild cards keep showing up. Just to make things more confusing, child obesity is not universally defined. Journalist Jacqueline Howard quotes Prof. Tiago Barreira of Syracuse University:

For children […] the World Health Organization has a standard, the CDC has another standard, so obesity rates vary… [G]lobal data is a little problematic because the methods to collect data — self-reported or measured — and to analyze data differ. So some of the information that we have is not identical depending on who is reporting.

Worldwide, there are still more underfed than overfed children, but that ratio is on track to change very soon. According to best estimates, there are 10 times as many obese children and teens as there were 40 years ago.

The childhood obesity epidemic

By 2016, the situation got to where there were 41 million obese or overweight children age 5 and younger. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2025 there will be 70 million in that age group alone.

In the five to nine age group, the Pacific Islands are notorious for producing an obesity rate that hovers around 30%. The island of Nauru is the worst, and also holds the record for the highest rate among 10- to 19-year-olds. According to WHO, “replacing traditional foods with imported, processed food has contributed to the high prevalence of obesity and related health problems in the Pacific islands.”

In the United States, Mississippi has the most obese kids. In Europe, the Mediterranean countries are in worse shape, while the Scandinavian nations make a pretty good showing.

Why is the rate of child obesity so high in some countries and relatively lower in others? Many experts believe it’s all about how much responsibility should be assigned to different parenting methods throughout the world. Or are they that different? What can or cannot be attributed to genetic causes, including race?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why these Pacific Island nations have world’s highest childhood obesity rates,” CNN.com, 02/13/19
Image by Daniel Ramirez/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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