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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Vanderbilt: Biomarker in Saliva Predicts Childhood Obesity Risk

A molecular marker in saliva is associated with the emergence of childhood obesity in a group of preschool-aged Hispanic children.

The intriguing discoveryreported in the journal BMC Medical Genetics, supports ongoing efforts to identify biomarkers associated with the emergence of childhood obesity before body mass index (BMI) is designated as obese, said Dr. Shari Barkin, MSHS, director of Pediatric Obesity Research at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“Understanding the factors that predispose children to obesity is important and will pave the way toward better prevention and early intervention,” said Dr. Barkin, William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of General Pediatrics

Barkin and her colleagues collected saliva samples at baseline from children who were enrolled in the Growing Right Onto Wellness (GROW) trial. A total of 610 parent-preschool child pairs, 90 percent of whom were Hispanic, received high-dose behavioral intervention during a three-year study period. At enrollment, the children were at-risk for obesity, but not yet obese.

“Even though many of the children in our intervention group compared to our control group improved their nutrition, maintained physical activity consistent with guidelines and got sufficient sleep, 30 percent of them still emerged into obesity,” Dr. Barkin said. “This sheds new light on how we think about the interaction of behavior and genetics and how that might contribute to health disparities.”

Other authors of the current study included Ms. Amanda Rushing, Dr. Evan Sommer, Dr. Shilin Zhao and Eli Po’e. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HL103620, DK092986, TR000445).

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