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Health

Obesity can be predicted in two-month old babies

Curve growth patterns emerge almost from birth, say scientists.

OBESITY IN CHILDREN can be predicted almost immediately after birth.

New US research shows that infants as young as two months old exhibit growth patterns that can forecast future weight.

“Almost from birth, we quickly saw this growth pattern emerge in our curves and growth charts for weight over height,” said Susan Ludington, the lead investigator at the Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The study, published in Clinical Pediatrics, reviewed thousands of records from 221 healthy children. Scientists said it was the first examination of early-weight changes that excluded children who had received treatment in hospital or suffered a medical condition in their early years.

“We didn’t want anything to interfere with regular eating,” Ludington said.

The team found that those children who were a normal-weight at age five had developed differently from birth than those considered overweight, obese or severely obese.

Tracking it to the first month’s of life came after Harold Haller, director of Case Western Reserve’s Center for Statistical Consulting, took a different approach to infant growth.

He plotted on a graph a baby’s weight divided by height instead of using BMI scores as a guideline. By graphing, a pattern emerged that found both girls and boys known to be obese at five begin to show significantly higher weight over height than normal weight babies as early as two to four months of age.

The patterns of potential obesity are obvious even before infants start eating solid foods.

A mother’s diet

The study also looked at the mothers’ diets during pregnancy and as a result, there is a belief that how she ate contributed to a baby’s hormones and the ability to satisfy its hunger.

Current practice sees obesity diagnosed at or after age two. The study may help doctors as they search for effective, early interventions. Feeding times, quantity of milk received, breast milk over formula and sleep/awake activity patterns should all be taken into consideration, according to Ludington. She called for a larger study with thousands of children, including those with medical history, to be undertaken.

Ireland’s committee for health and children is due to continue its hearings on childhood obesity tomorrow. A number of experts, including paediatricians, physiotherapists and dieticians, will give evidence.

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