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Plump Babies May Lead to Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity

Who doesn't like to see a plump baby? Researchers have noted that a baby's weight gain in the first six months may put them at an increased risk of childhood obesity.

The study published in the April issue of Pediatrics by Elsie Taveras, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues showed that rapid increases in weight in the first 6 months of life puts the infant at a seven-fold increased risk of obesity by the time the infant turns three years of age.

The researchers studied 559 children in Project Viva which is an ongoing, prospective, cohort study of pregnant women and their children. The infants were measured for length and weight at birth, 6 months, and 3 years. By the time the children turned 3 years of age, 9 % were obese.

The researchers used multivariate regression analyses to predict the independent effects of birth weight-for-length z score and, separately, 6-month weight-for-length z score on BMI z score. They also looked at the sum of subscapular and triceps skinfold thicknesses, and obesity (BMI for age and gender of ≥95th percentile) at age 3.

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The researchers found that rapid increases in weight-for-length in the first six months of life were associated with a sharply increased risk of obesity at age 3. Children in the highest quartiles of weight-for-length z-scores at birth and six months was 40%, compared with 1% among children in the lowest quartiles were the most likely to be obese at age 3.

The weight-for-length measurements at six months were more strongly related to risk of obesity than weight-for-length measurements at birth.

Our main exposures were weight-for-length z score at birth adjusted for gestational age and weight-for-length z score at 6 months adjusted for weight-for-length z score at birth.

"Future studies should examine whether the mode of infant feeding, the quality of the infant diet after weaning, and overfeeding because of lack of parental responsiveness to infants' satiety cues might explain the association of infant weight gain with later obesity," they said.

Early interventions to prevent rapid increase in weight status in the first months of life may help reduce children's risk of obesity later in childhood," the researchers said.

Taveras EM, et al "Weight status in the first six months of life and obesity at three years of age" Pediatr 2009; 123(4): 1177-1183.