Research

Samoan obesity epidemic starts at birth

Check-up at the well baby clinic, American Samoa

The average weight gain curve of Samoan babies is similar to babies that are nutritionally deprived in the womb but then compensate by gaining weight rapidly after birth. Samoan babies are not undernourished. Credit: Kelley Smith

As some Pacific island cultures have “westernized” over the last several decades, among the changes has been a dramatic increase in obesity. Researchers don’t understand all the reasons why, but even a decade ago in American Samoa 59 percent of men and 71 percent of women were obese. A new Brown University study finds that the Samoan epidemic of obesity may start with rapid weight gain in early infancy.