News at Medicine - November 2016 - Got calcium? It may be the key to reducing childhood obesity

Got calcium? It may be the key to reducing childhood obesity
November 16, 2016
A researcher in the Faculty of Medicine is hoping her latest project will mean healthier children in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Pardis Pedram studies obesity. And according to a report from Alberta Health Services, Newfoundland has the

Dr. Pardis Pedram latest study could help prevent childhood obesity.
Photo by Jennifer Armstrong, HSIMS

highest number of overweight and obese children and youth in Canada at 35.6 per cent. According to the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada.

Dr. Pedram recently received a grant from the Janeway Research Foundation for her latest project “The Association of Dietary Calcium Intake and Level of Serum Calcium with Obesity and Insulin Resistance in NL Children.” In her proposal, she notes that overweight and obese children are at high risk of developing serious health problems in childhood and beyond, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2, asthma and even cancer. In addition overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood.

Her latest research will compare the dietary calcium intake and serum calcium levels among obese/overweight, and normal weight children in Newfoundland.

Planning for the future health of NL’s children

According to researchers, obesity in children is caused by multiple factors, including genetics, endocrine function, behavioral patterns and environmental determinants. Recent studies suggested that among environmental factors certain micronutrients are significantly associated with increased body fat deposition in adults, however little research has been done on obese children. Calcium is an essential micronutrient and plays an important role in bone health, many homeostatic systems and in controlling biological process like hormone secretion, and metabolism.

“We have never done such a project in children. However, it has been done by our lab on the adults from the general population in NL, but not in children,” Dr. Pedram noted.

Dr. Pedram, who is a senior PhD candidate in Dr. Guang Sun’s Complex Diseases Laboratory, expects to find a positive correlation between calcium and obesity indexes as well as insulin resistance in childhood obesity. “The findings will provide solid evidence for policy makers to create new policy or programs to reduce the prevalence of child obesity in this province by supplementing calcium in the diet which is easy to carry out and safe to do.”

Dr. Pedram’s previous research has focused on the nutritional, hormonal and genetic factors in food addiction, especially their contribution to human obesity in adults and children. “I would like to find the unknown causes in the etiology of obesity. I prepared this current research proposal because calcium has been largely neglected in obesity; however, it plays an essential role in fat metabolism and bone health.”

This is Dr. Pedram’s third Janeway Research Foundation grant. Her previous two research grants from were in 2013 for research on the role of gastrointestinal hormones in the development of childhood obesity and in 2015 for a study that focused on the mineral selenium in childhood obesity and insulin resistance. Her latest project is expected to take about 12 months.