WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Residing in higher-opportunity and lower-vulnerability neighborhoods in early life is associated with a lower mean body mass index (BMI) trajectory and a lower risk for obesity from childhood to adolescence, according to a study published online Dec. 22 in JAMA Network Open.

Izzuddin M. Aris, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined associations of neighborhood-level measures of opportunity and social vulnerability with trajectories of BMI and obesity risk from birth to adolescence. The analysis included 20,677 children participating in the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program from Jan. 1, 1995, to Jan. 1, 2022.

The researchers found that at every life stage, children who resided in areas with higher Child Opportunity Index (COI) scores versus very low COI scores had lower mean BMI trajectories and a lower risk for obesity, independent of family sociodemographic and prenatal characteristics. Among children with obesity at age 10 years, the risk ratio (RR) was 0.21 for very high COI at birth, 0.31 for high COI at birth, 0.46 for moderate COI at birth, and 0.53 for low COI at birth. Findings showed similar patterns for children who resided in areas with lower Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) scores versus very high SVI scores (RRs: 0.17 for very low SVI at birth, 0.20 for low SVI at birth, 0.42 for moderate SVI at birth, and 0.43 for high SVI at birth). Effect estimates for mean BMI difference and obesity risk were larger for both indices at an older age of outcome measurement. Exposure to COI or SVI at birth was associated with more substantial difference in subsequent mean BMI and risk for obesity versus exposure at later life stages.

“Future research should clarify whether initiatives or policies that alter specific components of neighborhood environment would be beneficial in preventing excess weight in children,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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