Most people understand that children are part of the obesity epidemic. However, a revealing new study finds that obesity might begin in babies as young as nine months old.
"With the consistent evidence that the percent of overweight children has steadily increased over the past decade, we weren't surprised by the prevalence rates we found in our study, but we were surprised the trend began at such a young age," said lead study author Brian Moss, at the social work school at Wayne State University in Detroit.
The new study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort to analyze the early weight of 16,400 U.S. children born in 2001. Of these, 8,900 were nine months old and 7,500 were two years old.
The researchers found that 31.9 percent of babies at nine months and 34.3 percent at two years of age were either at risk or obese. The study also found that children who were Hispanic and from lower-income families were at greater risk of being obese than white children, while Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had lower risk. Female children were at lower risk for obesity than males.
"Being in an undesirable weight category at nine months subsequently predisposed children to remain in a less desirable weight category," said Moss, whose study appears in the January-February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Childhood obesity expert Joyce Lee, MD, an assistant professor in pediatric endocrinology and health services research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, confirmed that obesity is indeed becoming a problem in increasingly younger children.
"At younger ages, it is critical for parents to watch their child's nutritional intake as this will be the main determinant of their weight status," Lee said. "There is no approved 'diet' for children that young, so parents should communicate with their child's health care provider about healthy ways to feed their child."
Materials provided by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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