Infant obesity ups risk of lifetime obesity

By Sheryl Kay • Published: May 14th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Everyone loves to pinch a fat baby’s cheek, but little do we realize the long-term health implications of that soft plump round flesh we feel so compelled to gently squeeze.

Now research shows that eating patterns established by children at age two, and sometimes as early as three months of age, will predict the likelihood they will be obese later in life.

Published recently in Clinical Pediatrics, the study involved an analysis of health records from more than one-hundred ten- to twelve-year-old children whose body mass index was greater than eighty-five percent of the general public’s. Researchers found that a quarter of the children were overweight before they were five months old and more than half were overweight by age two. Ninety percent were overweight by age five. By age ten, all one-hundred-and-eleven children were considered obese.

The study revealed that overweight children begin gaining excess weight shortly after birth at the rate of one extra body mass index unit per year, and that by age two, children surpass a tipping point of no return. Researchers also found that despite the children coming from considerably different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, they all gained weight at the same rates and ages.

Because childhood obesity is associated with greater risks for developing diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the experts concluded that health care providers should screen for disproportionate weight gain as soon as possible.

While the baby fat might appear to be cute, it’s really easier, and in the long run safer, to establish healthy eating patterns when children are young.