The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than a quarter of all Hispanic children are obese, and a San Antonio researcher has received a $3 million grant to figure out why.
"Our hypothesis is that a lot of obesity risk is driven not just by genetic influences but by epigenetic influences, so how genes and environment might work together to increase risk (of obesity)," said Melanie Carless, a scientist at Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
Epigenetics refers to how environmental factors influence the way genes express themselves. Carless wants to figure out precisely which genes may be putting Hispanic kids at a higher risk for obesity, and how large the role of epigenetics might be.
"So these are modifiable risk factors that really come about by a combination of genetic and environmental influences and how they might be mediated by things like diet and physical activity and how we use the energy in our body," Carliess said.
Obesity puts kids at a higher risk of developing problems like diabetes and heart disease at younger ages, she added.
"So I'm really interested in targeting this particular group at an early age to try and identify risk where we might be able to intervene, and I think that's a really important area to get into," she said.
Bonnie Petrie can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kbonniepetrie