Modifiable Risk Factors for Overweight and Obesity in Children and Adolescents From São Paulo, Brazil
Background Brazil is currently experiencing a nutrition transition: the displacement of traditional diets with foods high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol and an increase in sedentary lifestyles. Despite these trends, our understanding of child obesity in Brazil is limited. Thus, the aims of this study were (1) to investigate the current prevalence of overweight and obesity in a large sample of children and adolescents living in São Paulo, Brazil, and (2) to identify the lifestyle behaviors associated with an increased risk of obesity in young Brazilians.
Methods A total of 3,397 children and adolescents (1,596 male) aged 7-18 years were randomly selected from 22 schools in São Paulo, Brazil. Participants were classified as normal weight, overweight, or obese based on international age- and sex-specific body mass index thresholds. Selected sociodemographic, physical activity, and nutrition behaviors were assessed via questionnaire.
Results Overall, 19.4% of boys and 16.1% of girls were overweight while 8.9% and 4.3% were obese. Two-way analysis of variance revealed that the prevalence of overweight and obesity was significantly higher in boys and in younger children when compared to girls and older children, respectively (P < 0.05 for both). Logistic regression analysis revealed that overweight was associated with more computer usage, parental encouragement to be active, and light soft drink consumption after controlling for differences in sex, age, and parental education (P < 0.05 for all). Conversely, overweight was associated with less active transport to school, eating before sleep, and consumption of breakfast, full-sugar soft drinks, fried food and confectionery (P < 0.05 for all).
Conclusions Our results show that obesity in São Paulo children and adolescents has reached a level equivalent to that seen in many developed countries. We have also identified three key modifiable factors related to obesity that may be appropriate targets for future intervention in Brazilian youth: transport mode to school, computer usage, and breakfast consumption.