, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 513-520
Date: 30 Nov 2012

Sugar, Stress, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Early Childhood Obesity Risks Among a Clinic-Based Sample of Low-Income Hispanics

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The nationwide epidemic of pediatric obesity is more prevalent among Hispanic children than white children. Recent literature suggests that obesity has early origins, leading scholars to call for interventions in pregnancy and infancy. However, there is little theoretical or empirical research to guide the development of early prevention programs for Hispanics. The present study seeks to identify risk factors for early childhood obesity among a low-income, predominately Hispanic sample. Data were gathered to inform the design of a primary care childhood obesity prevention program targeting pregnancy through age 12 months. Baseline data were gathered on 153 women attending the clinic for prenatal care or for their child’s 2, 6 or 12 month well-check. All women completed surveys on diet, exercise, social support, food security, stress, infant feeding practices, health, and demographics. For women with children (n = 66), survey data were matched with medical records data on infant weight. Results reveal that 55 % of women in the sample had an infant profiling in the 85th percentile or higher, confirming the need for an early childhood obesity intervention. While mothers exhibited several potential risk factors for childhood obesity (e.g. fast food consumption), only maternal consumption of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages, stress, and SNAP (food stamp receipt) were associated with infant overweight. Findings further reveal that stress and SNAP relate to child overweight, in part, through mothers’ sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Results suggest that obesity prevention efforts must address specific individual choices as well as the external environment that shapes these consumption patterns.