Formula predicts likelihood of childhood obesity

By Christina Rabaza • Published: March 11th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

How early is too early to practice preventive health measures? Some say never, taking prevention to a whole new level with a tool that calculates the risk of childhood obesity — at birth.

The formula, available as a calculator online, comes just in time for National Nutrition Month. It adds together a child’s birth weight and body mass index, the number of people in the household, the mother’s professional level, and her smoking habits during pregnancy. Combined, the data is enough to identify a child’s likelihood of becoming obese when preventive measures aren’t taken.

Pointing out how difficult it is for children to lose weight once they’ve gained it, researchers at the Imperial College London say the risk assessment is more a tool of foresight than an absolute calculation of destiny.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

But researchers say evading obesity isn’t the only goal they have for the calculator. They also hope it can help parents keep their kids from developing accompanying conditions, like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But why should parents be concerned about obesity while their children are still in diapers? Researchers say public prevention campaigns aimed at school-age children haven’t been effective at preventing obesity. Instead, they hope to make an impact by empowering those with the most influence over young children’s nutritional foundations — their parents.

The secret to slowing down the obesity epidemic may not be as simple as crunching a few numbers, but parents can use the handy formula as a heads-up to remain vigilant of their children’s eating and exercise habits before a weight problem tips the scales.