Ear infections may be linked to childhood obesity

October 30, 2001 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Weight Management

Ear infections may be linked to childhood obesity

Parents of babies and small children with ear infections may be overfeeding them to soothe their ear discomfort, unknowingly contributing to childhood obesity, says a report presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting last week.

Scientists at the New Orleans Health Department in Louisiana decided to study the connection when they noted that many overweight children seen in city clinics had ear infections. They collected data on 1,054 children seen at three inner-city health clinics for 4 months in 1998.

They found that the prevalence of ear infections was higher among heavier children at all ages, with the relationship being particularly strong among babies. For example, among children younger than 1, more than 90% of those above the 95th percentile for weight had suffered ear infections, compared with 70% of 4-year-olds in that weight percentile.

And for children of all ages, eardrum abnormalities increased as body weight did. Nearly 90% of the children above the 95th percentile for weight had at least one abnormal eardrum.

One explanation for the link, is that parents may unknowingly overfeed their young children, misinterpreting fussiness due to earaches as hunger. Therefore, the researchers said that overweight children should be monitored more carefully for ear infection.

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