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The researchers questioned 1,826 Boston-area mothers, but Taveras said the study results apply to youngsters nationwide.
Many circumstances studied are more common in low-income, less educated families, including whites. Taveras said the researchers accounted for that and still found race was frequently a factor regardless of income.
The results may reflect cultural beliefs or influence from grandparents on feeding practices, but the good news, she said, is that almost every risk factor studied can be changed.
The separate, inflammation study involved data on more than 16,000 children aged 1 to 17 who had blood tests during 1999-2006 national health surveys.
Inflammation markers including a substance called C-reactive protein or CRP were measured. CRP levels of at least 1 milligram per deciliter of blood have been linked with heart disease risks in adults.
Starting at age 3, very obese children were more likely than less heavy kids to have levels at least that high. Even higher levels were most common in black and Hispanic kids.
Skinner said it's unlikely that elevated levels will cause problems at age 3. But researchers don't know if the presence of these markers at such a young age might put children at risk for heart problems early in adulthood.
Infections also can cause elevated CRP levels; the researchers took that into account and also excluded children with chronic illness.
The results are preliminary and do not mean that parents of obese kids should rush out and have their kids' CRP levels tested, Washington said. That's partly because it's not clear if lowering CRP levels in obese kids, through weight loss for example, would make any difference, he said.
On the Net:
American Academy of Pediatrics: http://aap.org/
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