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Ethnic differences in risk factors for obesity in New Zealand infants
  1. Laura D Howe1,2,3,
  2. Lis Ellison-Loschmann3,
  3. Neil Pearce3,4,
  4. Jeroen Douwes3,
  5. Mona Jeffreys2,
  6. Ridvan Firestone3
  1. 1MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  4. 4London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laura D Howe, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK; laura.howe{at}bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

Background In New Zealand, the burden of childhood obesity is greatest in Māori and Pacific children.

Methods In 687 infants from an internet-based birth cohort in New Zealand, we investigated ethnic differences in early life risk factors for later obesity, the degree to which these were explained by sociodemographic factors, and the extent to which ethnic differences in weight at age 3 months were explained by measured risk factors.

Results The risk of having an obese mother was double in Māori and Pacific infants compared with NZ European infants (prevalence 24% and 14%, respectively; OR 2.23, 95% CI 1.23 to 4.04). Māori and Pacific infants had higher weights in the first week of life and at 3 months (mean difference 0.19 kg, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.38), and their mothers had higher scores on a ‘snacks’ dietary pattern and lower scores on ‘healthy’ and ‘sweet’ dietary patterns. These inequalities were not explained by maternal education, maternal age or area-based deprivation. No ethnic differences were observed for maternal pre-pregnancy physical activity, hypertension or diabetes in pregnancy, exclusive breastfeeding or early introduction of solid foods. Ethnic inequalities in infant weight at 3 months were not explained by sociodemographic variables, maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index or dietary pattern scores or by other measured risk factors.

Conclusions This study shows excess prevalence of early life risk factors for obesity in Māori and Pacific infants in New Zealand and suggests an urgent need for early interventions for these groups.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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