Doctoral student Josefine Roswall and her research colleagues from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg are trying to identify early risk factors for obesity and to study in detail the role of diet in the development of preschool obesity.
Increased waist circumfence
These studies, presented in Roswall’s doctoral thesis, reveal that children born preterm have an increased waist circumference as infants despite being lean.
“This suggests that a rapid change in waist circumference in infancy can predict which children will develop dangerous abdominal obesity, which can lead in turn to the early onset of type 2 diabetes” says Josefine Roswall.
Vitamin D levels linked to BMI
Josefine Roswall’s research also reveals that low levels of vitamin D at birth, which occur in around 15 percent of newborns, can be linked to a high BMI at the age of three – even if the children are given vitamin D drops after birth.
“This indicates that pregnant women need vitamin D supplementation, especially during the winter,” says Roswall, who works as a physician at Hallands Hospital in Halmstad.
Changes in gut flora
Research groups have recently highlighted a link between obesity in adults and changes in gut flora. The researchers in Gothenburg have now studied how the gut flora establishes itself during the first year of life and drawn the conclusion that the gut flora of children who are wholly or partly breastfed has a different composition, helping protect them against obesity.
“Breastfeeding transfers many beneficial bacteria from the mother to the infant, which has this protective effect,” says Roswall.
Many children who become obese do so before they start school. It is therefore crucial to identify those at risk at an early stage. Josefine Roswall hopes that her research will pave the way for targeted preventive action.
The thesis “Childhood Overweight and Obesity – Identifying Early Risk Factors” was defended on January 16.
Josefine Roswall, doctoral student, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg; physician, Pediatric Department, Hallands Hospital, Halmstad
+46 (0)35 174386
Principal supervisor: Associate professor Jovanna Dahlgren, firstname.lastname@example.org