New research shows that children exposed to secondhand smoke when they were toddlers are likely to have a wider waistline and a higher BMI by the time they turn 10 years old compared to their peers who weren't.
Researchers from the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte Justine Research Centre found that 10-year-olds who were exposed to cigarette smoke when they were toddlers have a waistline that is 3/5 of an inch to a whole inch wider compared to other children. Their BMI were also likely to be between .48 and .81 points higher.
“This prospective association is almost as large as the influence of smoking while pregnant,” said lead author Professor Linda Pagani.
The added weight gain does not seem like much but because it comes during a critical stage of the children’s development called the “adiposity rebound period”, it could have serious long-lasting effects.
The study analyzed data from Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development which included a survey that asked parents to give information about their child’s development, wellbeing, lifestyle, social environment and behavior. The findings were then compared to 2,055 families, and from there conclusions were made.
Pagani speculated that the link between toddler secondhand smoke and weight gain during school-age was due to the harmful effects of the smoke to the systems in the body that are vital to growth and development.
“Early childhood exposure to second hand smoke could be influencing endocrine imbalances and altering neurodevelopmental functioning at this critical period in hypothalamic development, thus damaging vital systems which undergo important postnatal growth and development until middle childhood, i.e. the period that we've looked at in this study,” said Pagani.
The endocrine system, a collection of glands, is instrumental for the regulation of hormones responsible for mood, growth and development according to kidshealth.org. The hypothalamus links the encdocrine system to the brain.
Pagani also explained that children have ventilation needs that are 2 to 3 times higher than that of an adult’s, making them more vulnerable to secondhand smoke.
“In any event, our findings emphasize the importance public health initiatives and parental sensitization aimed at domestic exposure reductions during the critical early childhood years,” she concluded.
Sources: June 22, 2015. "Smoking around your toddler could be just as bad as smoking while pregnant". sciencedaily.com June 23, 2015. "Toddlers Exposed to Secondhand Smoke More Likely to Have Higher BMI at Age 10". psychcentral.com June 23, 2015. "Smoking Near Toddlers As Bad As Smoking While Pregnant". yahoo.com