Growth patterns that can predict a child’s obesity risks are evident in infants as young as 2 months old, according to new research led by Case Western Reserve University.
The findings, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, suggest that analyzing infant growth charts might help doctors predict which children are likely to be overweight or obese by age 5 — and take early preventive actions.
"Almost from birth, we quickly saw this growth pattern emerge in our curves and growth charts for weight over height," said lead researcher Susan Ludington, a professor of pediatric nursing at Case Western.
For the study, Ludington and colleagues tracked 221 healthy children, monitoring their weight, height, and medical records from check-ups over the first five years of their lives. None had a hospital visit, medical procedure, or special medical condition that might skew results.
In analyzing the children’s records, researchers found both girls and boys known to be obese at 5 years of age begin to show significantly higher weight over height than normal-weight babies as early as 2 months of age. Because such patterns emerge before children start eating solid food, early life growth patterns may provide an important guide to a person's future health issues, Ludington said.
These findings could change the age at which obesity is typically diagnosed, which is now at or after age 2. Ludington said the next step is to determine if childhood obesity can be influenced by whether a baby is fed on demand or a schedule, the amount of milk a baby receives, whether the baby should have breast milk or formula, and sleep/awake activity patterns of each infant.
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