Overweight In Early Childhood Increases Chances for Obesity At Age 12

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

Childhood Obesity

Children who are overweight as toddlers or preschoolers are more likely to be overweight or obese in early adolescence, report researchers in a collaborative study by the NIH and several academic institutions.

The researchers periodically collected height and weight measurements of a sample of children, beginning at age 2 and continuing until age 12. Their analysis, appearing in the September Pediatrics, provides some of the strongest evidence to date that overweight in early childhood increase the chances for overweight in later life.

Advertisement

"These findings underscore the need to maintain a healthy weight beginning in early childhood," said Duane Alexander, M.D., the Director of NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. "Contrary to popular belief, young children who are overweight or obese typically won't lose the extra weight simply as a result of getting older."

A large number of studies have found that obesity persists from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood. Obese adolescents are likely to become overweight adults and, as such, at risk for the complications of obesity--cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Most previous studies have collected height and weight information only from a few intervals in childhood and 1 or 2 intervals in later life. The strength of the current analysis is that it was conducted on data collected during frequent intervals over an extended period of time, from age 2 through age 12, explained the study's principal investigator, Philip R. Nader, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. Dr. Nader added that the children who took part in the study were born in 1991, and so were growing up during the current trend of overweight and obesity in the general population.

The analysis was conducted on data collected as part of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. For the study, researchers followed the development of more than 1000 children from across the United States, enrolled in the study at birth. Although the study sample was not nationally representative of the United States as a whole, the sample did include children from ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged households. More than 80 percent of the children in the study grew up in two-parent families. For the most part, the study focused on gathering information relevant to children's experience in various child care arrangements. However, measurements of the children's height and weight were collected when the children were ages 2, 3, 4

Advertisement