Obesity Risk Assessment Tool among 3-5 Year Olds: Validation with Biomarkers of Low-Grade Chronic Inflammation

Marilyn S Townsend, Mical K. Shilts, Louise Lanoue, Christiana Drake, Dennis M. Styne, Leslie Woodhouse, Lenna Ontai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Many families with young children practice nutrition, parenting, and lifestyle behaviors that set their children on trajectories for unhealthful weight gain. Potential adverse health effects of excessive body fat can result in the secretion of proinflammatory molecules and increased risk of inflammation and metabolic diseases. A pediatric obesity risk assessment tool named Healthy Kids (HK), demonstrated validity in a longitudinal study with child's measured BMI and 36-hour diet, screen, sleep, and activity logs. Our objective was to provide additional evidence of validity with low-income families with literacy issues using an inflammation index composed of four proinflammatory biomarkers. Methods: Parent/child pairs (n = 104) from Head Start and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provided HK, blood samples, and measured heights/weights. Select child inflammatory markers were discretized into two groups of HK scores. Data were analyzed with a mixed model adjusted for children's age and BMI. Results: A significant HK-time interaction effect was shown for the child inflammation index with two data collection points 1 year apart (pdid = 0.039). This index increased over 12 months in children with less healthful behaviors (p = 0.007), but not in children with more healthful profiles (p = 0.58). Conclusions: Children with less healthful HK scores had an elevated inflammation index indicating a low-grade chronic systemic inflammatory state. Taken together with our previously published findings, the HK tool has potential as a rapid and easy-to-administer assessment of the family environment and the child's obesity risk. HK can be useful for federal nutrition programs for evaluation, risk assessment, goal setting, and/or program planning in clinical and community environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S23-S32
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • biomarker
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • risk assessment
  • validation
  • young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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