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Featured Profile: Sara Gable

Sara Gable

University of Missouri researcher Dr. Sara Gable wants to know causes and consequences of childhood obesity – and how to prevent them.

For some, the phrase “childhood obesity” conjures images of children parked in front of a television set. However, obesity is a complex phenomenon with a variety of causes – meaning when it comes to prevention, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where Gable comes in.

Gable recently led a study of more than 6,000 children, following them from kindergarten through fifth grade. Parents provided information about their families; teachers reported on the children’s interpersonal skills and emotional well-being. Children were weighed and measured. They also took academic tests.

When compared with children who were never obese, boys and girls whose obesity persisted from kindergarten through fifth grade performed worse on math tests than their non-obese counterparts. Children who became obese at a later age had fewer such problems – suggesting that resources might be most effectively focused on preventing early childhood obesity.

In another study, Gable examined family processes – household environment, parenting beliefs and child characteristics – in 65 families with obese and non-obese children. The results suggest that improving parent knowledge of child nutrition is a vital part of curbing childhood obesity. 

Dr. Sara Gable is associate professor for the interdisciplinary Department of Nutrition & Exercise Physiology which spans the School of Medicine and the Colleges of Human Environmental Sciences and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. She is also a child development specialist for MU Extension.

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Related Initiative(s):
Food for the Future, One Health/One Medicine,