Effects of location on BMI: IDEFICS paper accepted by scientific journal Plos One

Childhood obesity is a growing problem, affecting children and families worldwide. But how does it differ between countries?


The IDEFICS study, predecessor to I.Family led by the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS, Germany, 2006-2012), sampled children from across seven European countries, comparing their BMI trajectories to see how obesity rates are affected by location or culture. The results will be published in Plos One, a peer-reviewed journal that features primary research from all areas of science and medicine.


Overall, the study found some differences between children from various countries but when results were adjusted for early life factors, these differences became smaller. This suggests that early life factors only explain some of the inter-country variation in growth. One of the most interesting results was that Italian children showed a significantly higher BMI at all ages over three years, compared with other countries.


Maternal BMI was the factor most strongly associated with BMI growth, a finding supported by other studies across the continent. Gestational weight gain was also weakly associated with BMI at birth in all countries. Finally, some positive associations were found between BMI growth and children not being breastfed, mothers smoking during pregnancy and low educational level of parents.


“These findings are important in our ongoing research into risk factors for childhood obesity,” says Claudia Börnhurst of BIPS, lead author. “Looking into determinants of BMI growth increases our ability to help families make healthier choices, and inform discussions between health professionals and policy makers about how this global concern can be addressed effectively.  We’re thrilled that Plos One has agreed to publish our research so that it can reach a wider audience.”


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