Magazine article USA TODAY

How Weight Affects 'Wait!' Come Halloween

Magazine article USA TODAY

How Weight Affects 'Wait!' Come Halloween

Article excerpt

Child development specialists already know obese children are at greater risk than their peers for developing high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and joint problems. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, have added another concern to the list: pedestrian injury, which becomes even more of a concern with the arrival of Halloween

It is not because overweight and obese kids cannot cross the street fast enough. Rather, researchers have found that children with higher body mass indices--rates of childhood obesity have doubled over the past 30 years--are more impatient and impulsive than their peers; they wait less before crossing, allow for a smaller buffer of time and distance between themselves and oncoming traffic, and are involved in more collisions.

Elizabeth O'Neal, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, indicates that obesity in children is associated with deficits in executive functioning, which involves any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management, or flexible thinking. Researchers say this deficit could explain why participants with higher BMIs are more impulsive and uninhibited during the road crossings.

O'Neal points out that examining the risk of pedestrian injury represents a new avenue in childhood obesity research. "As an area of study, it is not very well developed. This is sort of the beginning. We think there is a lot to be done, both epidemiologically and behaviorally, to see what is going on. …

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