Obesity Starts In Kindergarten
January 30, 2014

Childhood Obesity Often Starts As Early As Kindergarten, Says Study

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Childhood obesity can begin in kindergarten, according to a new study by researchers from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.

Scientists using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Growth Charts found that overweight kindergarteners were four times more likely to become obese by the 8th grade when compared to their normal-weight counterparts.

The team used the CDC data and calculated each child’s body-mass index (BMI) and determined cutoffs for normal weight, overweight and obesity.

"Our findings uncovered several important points by examining incidence over time," said Solveig A. Cunningham, assistant professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health. "We have evidence that certain factors established before birth and during the first five years are important."

The survey used in the study represents all US children enrolled in kindergarten at the time, including about 3.8 million students. The team focused on the rate of incidence of obesity in overweight and normal weight children as they entered kindergarten.

"Although trends in the prevalence of obesity are well documented, there is surprisingly little known about new cases of childhood obesity," says Cunningham.

According to the findings, over 12 percent of children entering kindergarten in the US are obese, and over 14 percent are overweight. The overweight children entering kindergarten are four times more likely than normal weight children to become obese by the eighth grade. The team also saw that children who were large at birth and are overweight by kindergarten are at the highest risk of becoming obese before age 14.

The study’s findings offer clues about other measures that could be taken to help children struggling with obesity.

“Obesity-prevention efforts focused on children who are overweight by five-years-old may be a way to target children susceptible to becoming obese later in life,” Cunningham said.

One intervention recently suggested by researchers from the University of Manchester say that people need to target behavior changes in multiple aspects of children’s lifestyles and their surroundings in order to combat childhood obesity. Some of these changes could include talking to kids about nutritional education, giving parents support, and providing some physical activity. Parents need to be teaching their kids about the importance of diet and exercise at an earlier age, and ensure they follow through with it.