Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Nuclear technology to fight childhood obesity

Published:Sunday | September 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Tulloch Reid

As concerns mount about the increasing rate of obesity among Jamaica's children, the University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Health will be rolling out a national project next month intended to promote the healthy growth of children.

The project will be undertaken by researchers at the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit at the university and is being funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Principal investigator for the Promoting Healthy Growth in Children project, Professor Asha Badaloo, said the aim is to look at the risk factors for obesity among children.




"We are concerned because the prevalence of obesity is increasing in children and in adults, and we know that obese children remain obese as adults," Badaloo told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We think that if we can identify risk factors now, we can contribute to designing prevention and intervention to prevent obesity both in children and in later life," added Badaloo.

Participants for the project will be divided into two cohorts. While one component of the project will target children from pregnancy to two years old, the other aspect of the project will see the assessment of children who are six years old.

The professor said she will be partnering with other experts like endocrinologist Dr Marshall Tulloch-Reid to conduct the research.

They will be using stable isotopes to measure the body composition of the children, because by using this nuclear technology, they will be able to get a direct representation of the amount of fat versus lean tissue in children.

This project will also be combined with a coordinated research project which will see mothers receiving nutrition education from pregnancy. Paediatrician and main researcher for the project, Dr Carolyn Taylor-Bryan, said the project will be run over five years.

"I am going to be looking at risk factors for childhood obesity and see if there is a difference when we educate the mothers on how to feed their child," said Taylor-Reid.

"We are going to recruit the mothers from when they are pregnant and start educating them before they have the baby about breastfeeding, and then we will follow the kids," she added.

Childhood obesity rates have doubled in Jamaica in the last five years.

In 2010, the Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSSHS) in Jamaica reported that for the 13 to 15 age group, 18.1 per cent of boys and 25.2 per cent of girls were overweight, while 5.3 per cent of boys and 6.7 per cent of girls were obese.

In its 2017 study, the GSSHS showed that the obesity rate in boys had almost doubled from 5.3 per cent to 10.3 per cent, while the obesity rate in girls jumped from 6.7 per cent to 9.9 per cent.