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Impact of early life factors on inequalities in risk of overweight in UK children

Childhood overweight and obesity is more common in disadvantaged children, but it is unclear the extent to which early life factors attenuate this relationship. Massion et al explore this using data from the UK millennium cohort study (11,764 children). At age 11 years 28.4% were overweight (combining with obesity). Maternal academic qualification at the child's birth was used as a fixed measure of socio-economic circumstance. Children of mothers with no academic qualifications were more likely to be obese than children of mothers with degrees and higher degrees (RR 1.72, 95% confidence interval 1.48–2.01). Controlling for prenatal, perinatal and early life characteristics (particularly maternal pre pregnancy overweight and maternal smoking during pregnancy) reduced the risk (RR 1.44, 95% confidence interval 1.23–1.69). This study confirms the social gradient in obesity risk but also specific early life risk factors that at least partially account for this. The authors call for initiatives and policies to support mother's maintain a healthy weight, breast feed and abstain from smoking during pregnancy to improve maternal and child health outcomes, and potentially impact on the continuing rise in inequalities in childhood overweight. See page 724.

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