Monitor Children's Weight Beginning Early in Life

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A new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics reveals that monitoring the weight of children even in infancy and toddlerhood is critical to preventing obesity and its related problems in the years to come.

A study of more than 100 obese children and teenagers – average age was 12 - found that more than half were already overweight by the age of two and 90% were overweight by the age of five. Weight status was determined using a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart specific for children with those above the 85th percentile being considered overweight and 95th percentile as obese.

Even baby weight is associated with a greater risk of being obese in older childhood and adolescence – a quarter of the children were considered to have a high body mass index before they were five months old. Medical records revealed that most of the children began gaining weight even as early as three months old at an average rate of .08 excess BMI on a monthly basis.

The reason for rapid weight gain in early life is not well understood. Genetics plays a role, but so do contributing factors such as poor diet, early introduction of solid food, and not getting enough daily physical activity.

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Study leader Dr. John Harrington, pediatrician and an assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, said that the results should be a “wake up call” for pediatricians and that inappropriate weight gain should be addressed early in infancy during well-child visits. “Too often, doctors wait until medical complications arise before they begin treatment. Getting parents and children to change habits that have already taken hold is a monumental challenge fraught with roadblocks and disappointments.”

According to a recent article in the New York Times and the Journal of the American Medical Association, obesity rates in the United States are stabilizing. However, although the rates may have ceased from continuing to rise, the overall rate of both adult and childhood obesity is still at a high rate. About 17% of American children are considered obese.

Obesity is a major health concern that not only increases the risk of developing chronic diseases earlier in life, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, but also places children at a greater risk for emotional issues such as depression and low self-esteem.

The most concerning statistic recently revealed about childhood obesity found that overweight children grow may live shorter lives as adults. A current study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that adults who were heaviest as children were more than twice as likely to die early than those who were at a lower body mass index.

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama revealed her initiative called “Let’s Move” to combat the significant factors that lead to childhood obesity. Many public and private associations have joined the campaign in an effort to improve the health of the children so that they grow into healthy, successful adults.

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