Fin-HIT Celebrates 10 Years - Folkhälsan

11 May 2021

Fin-HIT Celebrates 10 Years

On 15 April, the research group Fin-HIT celebrated its 10th anniversary with a full-day seminar that went under the theme "The cornerstones of a healthy weight" (fin. Terveen painon pilarit). The online seminar drew a record-breaking audience of over 300 spectators and about 600 pre-registered attendees, and around 2,000 viewed the seminar recording afterwards.

During the Fin-HIT study's 10 years, research has progressed by leaps and bounds. The aim is to investigate how genetic factors and lifestyle affect the health of children and young people, now and in the future. In the first instance, factors that are linked to weight development and previously unknown causal relationships are examined. The survey covers, among other things, diet, exercise, screen time and sleep. The research material also makes it possible to study diseases such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

– With the help of national register data, we have comprehensive information about the participants' health. Thus, the materials of the Fin-HIT study able to investigate many non-communicable diseases such as depression, anxiety, allergies and asthma, says Heli Viljakainen, principal investigator and group leader of Fin-HIT.

The 10-year seminar “The cornerstones of healthy weight” was arranged in collaboration with the Finnish Association for the Study of Obesity (FASO) and revolved around the theme of obesity; both at the societal and individual level. The seminar offered interesting presentations on current topics of obesity research among children. The event also drew a record-breaking audience of over 300 people and around 2000 have seen the recording of the seminar afterwards.

– Digitization has led to major societal changes which also challenges young people's health in many ways. Fin-HIT contributes to the tackling of obesity with basic research. We are very pleased to offer research-based results, tools and ideas that can be used in health promotion work, says Viljakainen.

– The collaboration with the Obesity Researchers has also been very helpful and made it possible for us to find the right target group for this event. So, a big thank you to them for the great cooperation, Viljakainen concludes.

You can read more about Fin-HIT here.


Main takeaways from the seminar:

  • Genetic factors explain about 40–50% of the variation in BMI among the population. At present, about 1000 gene variants are known to increase the risk of obesity. (Khera AV et al. Cell 2019; 177: 587-96)

  • Parents' education is related to obesity in children both directly and indirectly via the parents' weight index. (Parikka S et al. BMC Public Health. 2015 Mar 19; 15: 271)

  • Family crises contribute to obesity in children: e.g. Obesity was more common in children who experienced a lack of emotional support. (Häkkänen P et al. Prev Med Rep 2020 Nov 5; 20: 101239; Garasky S et al. Soc Sci Res 2009; 38 (4): 755-66)

  • Children with lowest socio-economical background had the greatest benefit from food education in day care, the so-called Sapere method. (Kähkönen K et al. Public Health Nutr 2018 Sep; 21 (13) 2443-53)

  • The problem of obesity in children is not tackled by focusing only on sugary food consumption. The diet as a whole, also exercise, screen time and sleep are important to consider. (Sohvi Lommi's presentation)
  • Watching TV was more strongly associated with obesity than computer use. This may be because you follow the screen passively and more often eat something in front of the TV. (Engberg E et al. Sci Rep 2019 Aug 1; 9 (1): 11158)

  • What you do with the screen can also be something useful, e.g. learning games. You should not just stare blindly at the actual time you spend with a screen. Especially during the corona period, the students have used a lot of screen in e.g. distance school. One of the hallmarks of problematic use of social media is that the behavior becomes compulsive. (Summary of Marja Leppänen and Heli Viljakainen)

Simon Granroth, Science Communicator