Obesity Predicted In Infants By Measuring Height And Weight, Not BMI
June 12, 2013

Predicting Obesity In Infants Based On Height And Weight Measurements

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

By using a formula which includes height and weight instead of body mass index (BMI), researchers from Case Western Reserve University and Texas Tech University found they could predict obesity in children by age 5, according to a report in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

“Almost from birth, we quickly saw this growth pattern emerge in our curves and growth charts for weight over height,” said lead author Susan Ludington, a professor of pediatric nursing at Case Western Reserve.

By looking at children with normal weights and working backward the researchers were able to determine “a growth pattern in the first year that differed from children who were overweight, obese, or morbidly obese at 5 years,” the report said.

In the study, researchers enrolled 221 children from 4,000 records of healthy children who belonged to a health maintenance organization. Each child had weight, height and medical records from nine check-ups over the first five years of their lives. None of the children had any kind of medical procedure, special medical condition, or prescribed medications that might taint the results. According to the scientists, previous early weight studies have not included a sample set of only healthy infants and children.

“We didn´t want anything to interfere with regular eating,” Ludington explained.

She said the study also differed in its inclusion of maternal health records, which contained information about the mothers´ pre-pregnancy weights and other health factors.

The study utilized a new approach by Harold Haller, director of Case Western Reserve´s Center for Statistical Consulting. Haller plotted a graph of a baby´s weight divided by height instead of using BMI scores as a guideline. His graph showed a pattern for children that are known to be obese at 5 years old; these boys and girls began to show considerably higher weight over height than healthy weight babies as early as 2 or 4 months of age.

According to Ludington, these early growth patterns may offer vital information about a person´s future health issues.

Based on their results, the researchers questioned the use of BMI, which is based on European babies that tended to be breast-fed in the first year. In the United States, many babies forego breast milk for formula feedings.

The team concluded that the study could potentially change how obesity is diagnosed in very young children.

“Obesity growth patterns were seen in infancy and are clinically important because identification of infants who do not fit a normal weight pattern can occur and thus guide individualized interventions in the first year post-birth while precursors of later health are still forming,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Based on previous findings, the researchers also theorized that a mother´s diet during pregnancy could affect a developing baby´s hormones and the ability to satisfy a child´s hunger.

According to Ludington, the researchers plan to expand on their findings by incorporating information about a developing child´s diet, including feeding intervals, the use of formula or breast milk, and amount of food a baby receives.