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Overweight Babies Have Delayed Motor Skills


Chubby infants may look cute, but the extra weight they carry may be slowing them down. A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that motor skills may be delayed in overweight babies because the children tend to be less physically active.

Babies are supposed to have baby fat, but being overweight is another matter. According to a 2006 study published in the journal Obesity, the proportion of babies six months and younger who are overweight increased to nearly 6 percent, up from 3 percent in 1980.

Overweight babies frequently become overweight children and adults, with accompanying health problems. In this latest study from the University of North Carolina, the focus was on a problem that can manifest beginning during the first few months of life in overweight infants and have immediate consequences.

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The researchers observed 217 African-American infants and their first-time mothers. The participants were part of the Infant Care, Feeding and Risk of Obesity Study, which is evaluating the relationship between parenting and infant feeding styles and their impact on diet and the risk of overweight babies. The babies were weighed and measured and their motor skills were evaluated at months 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 months of life.

Overweight babies were 1.8 times as likely as their thinner peers to have a low score on a test that measures motor development. Babies who had high levels of fat (fat rolls) under their skin were 2.32 times as likely as babies without fat rolls to have a low score.

A low score meant that being overweight slowed the infants’ ability to walk and crawl. While previous studies have shown that overweight infants and toddlers can establish “an obesity trajectory that may be hard to change,” according to lead author Meghan Slining, the new study “shows that there are actually immediate consequences as well.”

In another study just published in Clinical Pediatrics, the authors found that the critical time to prevent childhood obesity is during the first two years of life, and for many it is by age three months. Therefore overweight babies may be cute, but delayed motor skills and the potential for childhood obesity definitely are not.

Harrington JW et al. Clinical Pediatrics 2010 Feb 11
Kim J et al. Obesity 2006 Jul; 14(7): 1107-12
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill



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