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Scott Lear

Obesity study targets kids in India, Canada

December 2, 2010

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More than 4,000 children in India and Canada will be the focus of a sweeping new study aimed at developing critical strategies for preventing obesity.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is funding the study, led by health scientists Scott Lear of SFU and Zubin Punthakee of McMaster University, which will target children from seven to 15 years old.

“Obesity in Indians is a major health issue because of the large global population of Indians and their increased risk for obesity-related health consequences, like diabetes and heart disease,” says Lear, a kinesiologist and associate health sciences professor.

The researchers are partnering with the Surrey School District and the Peel School District in Brampton, Ontario, as well as India’s Mandal Education Board, which focuses on rural communities in India.

“Indians are biologically and culturally different from the Caucasian groups in which most of these associations have been studied,” says Lear, who is also the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“They comprise one of the fastest growing groups in Canada, but unfortunately also have some of the highest diabetes and heart disease rates. In India alone, over 32 million people have diabetes—more than the entire population of Canada.”

Little is known about the relationship between environmental factors and obesity among children of Indian origin in either India or Canada, says Lear.

“This study will not only show the extent of the problem, but will also shed light on the characteristics of family, school and community environments that may affect it, which may be targets for future interventions.”

Based on their findings, the researchers plan to develop and test an intervention as part of a pilot test.

A renowned heart researcher, Lear is also studying how heart health changes in different ethnic groups and how to create heart-healthy communities.

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