For children who are or are at risk of being overweight or obese, weight-based teasing was associated with further weight and fat gain, according to Natasha A. Schvey, PhD, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md., and her associates.

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The investigators conducted a longitudinal, observational study of 110 children who were either in the 85th body mass index (BMI) percentile or greater or had two parents with a BMI of at least 25 kg/m2. Children were recruited between July 12, 1996, and July 6, 2009, administered the Perception of Teasing Scale at baseline and during follow-up, and followed for up to 15 years. Children were aged a mean of 12 years at baseline, and attended an average of nine visits.

At baseline, 53% of children were overweight, with overweight being more common in girls and in non-Hispanic whites. A total of 62% of children who were overweight at baseline reported at least one incidence of weight-based teasing (WBT), compared with 21% of children at risk. WBT at baseline was associated with BMI throughout the study (P less than .001). In addition, children who reported more WBT showed a steeper gain in BMI (P = .007). Overall, children who reported high levels of WBT had 33% greater gains in BMI per year than those with no WBT.

Fat mass was associated with WBT in a similar manner, but to an increased extent, as children who reported high levels of WBT gained 91% more fat per year than those with no WBT.

“As adolescence marks a critical period for the study of weight gain, it will be important to further explore the effects of WBT and weight‐related pressures on indices of weight and health throughout development and to identify both risk and protective factors. The present findings ... may provide a foundation upon which to initiate clinical pediatric interventions to determine whether reducing WBT affects weight and fat gain trajectory,” the investigators concluded.

The study was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The investigators did not report any conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Schvey NA et al. Pediatr Obes. 2019 May 29. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12538.