November 9, 2011
New Method For Predicting Childhood Obesity
Researchers have developed a new method for doctors to help predict which babies will grow up to be obese.
A team of researchers found that growth charts doctors use at check-ups can predict a child's risk of becoming obese later in life.
The study tracked over 44,000 babies for over a decade, measuring a child's length and weight from birth to the age of three. The team then put the children's results on a growth chart as a percentile.
The percentile shows how boys and girls compare to children of the same age and gender. A boy in the 30th percentile weighs more than 30 percent of boys his age but weighs less than 70 percent.
Scientists found that children who rose more than two percentile points between birth and the age of two were at risk of being obese.
They also found that a toddler in the 95th percentile or above was considered overweight and was more likely to be obese by the time they were 10.
The team found that children who rose two or more percentiles on their growth charts before they hit two doubled their odds of obesity at five-years-old. They were also 75 percent more likely to be obese at the age of 10.
"We shouldn't neglect these early gains and think that it's just baby fat, and that these children are going to grow out of it," Doctor Taveras, co-director of the One Step Ahead clinic, said in a statement. "Crossing two or more percentiles in weight-for-length should trigger a discussion between parents and their pediatric providers of what's contributing to the rapid gains."
The team found that out of all babies tracked, 11.6 percent were obese at the age of 5, and 16.1 percent were obese at the age of 10.
Babies who were overweight anytime during the first two years of life were more likely to be obese at age five or age 10.
They found that 43 percent of infants rose two or more percentiles during their first six months, and 64 percent had these rises during their first two years.
The researchers also found that the higher the weight-for-length percentile during the first two years, the greater the prevalence of obesity at five or 10.
The research was published in the November Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
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