Going Back to the Future of Obesity and Osteoporosis

Originally published on Cornerstone, the CHOP Research Blog.

I composed this original article based on an interview with the investigator.


In medicine, prevention costs a lot less than a time machine. Fifty to 60 years in the future, many of today’s healthy children and teens will develop later-onset chronic conditions including heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. But some of the factors that put them at risk are already beginning now. Prevention of these chronic diseases during childhood may be far more effective than treating them later in adulthood, particularly if we can predict today who will benefit most from these preventive efforts in the future.

This childhood prevention of adult disease is the pursuit of Jonathan Mitchell, PhD, an instructor of Pediatrics in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Mitchell was recently awarded a training grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health for a study of connections between sleep and obesity risk in teenagers as they transition from middle school to high school. Obese teens tend to become obese adults who face increased risk for heart disease and cancers, so there could be a major long-term public health benefit in understanding how sleep patterns, physical activity-related factors, and genetic factors influence obesity in early adolescence.

“I want to address the question of whether or not short sleep duration leads to the development of adolescent obesity, but we know that other factors, such as physical activity and genetics are also important,” Dr. Mitchell said.

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