MIL OSI – Source: University of Canterbury – Headline: Relationship between high birth weight and socio-economic status is complicated, researcher says
A University of Canterbury economics and finance doctoral researcher who examined issues relating to heavy babies, says the relationship between high birth weight and socio-economic status, obesity, and iron supplements is complicated.
Dr Rachel Webb has just graduated at the University of Canterbury after exploring issues and factors relating to heavy new-born babies.
“Although low socio-economic status is generally detrimental to most health outcomes, it doesn’t appear to be clearly so when it comes to high birth weight risk,” she says.
“Obesity is highly correlated with high birth weight risk. My findings have implications for other people undertaking obesity research in that they should be careful about assuming causal effects of obesity to detrimental health outcomes when the relationship may be partially driven by other factors.
“I didn’t find enough evidence to conclude that iron supplement intake increases high birth weight risk, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. I unearthed some new evidence relating to fast food restaurants while researching the relationship between maternal obesity and high birth weight risk. A significant relationship between fast food restaurant density and obesity has been a prominent finding by health researchers.
“There are strong correlations between fast food restaurants and obesity risk in a number of studies. However many fail to account for underlying factors that affect both the fast food restaurants location and obesity risk.
“Issues such as ethnicity, whether it is an urban or rural area, age, socio-economic status, level of deprivation of the area, other nearby food options available can all affect both restaurant location and obesity risk.
“It is generally asserted that fast food proximity lowers the cost of eating high calorie food and can lead to higher obesity risk, however many dispute that there is a causal relationship.
“A curious finding from my results was that the fast food restaurant density in a city did not have the expected effect on obesity measures. Many of the big chain fast food restaurants were shown to lower the risk of obesity holding other factors constant.
“This finding cannot be explained as merely substitution away from less healthy takeout options such as fish and chips, towards big chain fast food as I found the overall number of fast food outlets per person in a city was generally insignificant. More research into the effect of fast food on obesity is needed.’’
Dr Webb’s research was supervised by the university’s Dr Andrea Menclova. Dr Webb is teaching at both University of Canterbury International College and for the university’s Department of Economics and Finance.