Why Obesity Among 5 Year Olds Is So Dangerous

The earlier kids gain weight, the less likely they are to lose it

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A new report that studied kids throughout childhood found that those who are obese at five years old are more likely to be heavy later in life.

While other studies have hinted at that trend, those have generally involved what’s known as prevalence of the condition — or the proportion of a population, at a given time, that is considered obese. Such information doesn’t suggest the risk of developing obesity, which is revealed by studying a population over specific periods of time. So in the latest study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists tracked a group of 7738 children, some of whom were overweight or obese, and some who were normal weight, from 1998 (when they were in kindergarten) to 2007 (when they were in ninth grade). They found that the 14.9% of five-year-olds who were overweight at kindergarten were four times more likely to become obese nearly a decade later than five-year-olds of a healthy weight.

MORE: Severely Obese Kids Have Heart Disease Risk Factors as Early as Age 2

During the study, the researchers measured the children’s height and weight seven times, which allowed them to record the incidence of obesity almost yearly. Overall, since most of the children (6807) were normal weight at the start of the study, the children’s risk of becoming obese decreased by 5.4% during the kindergarten year and by 1.7% between the fifth and eighth grades. But the five-year-olds who were overweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) within the 85th percentile for their age group were significantly more likely to become obese, which the scientists defined as a BMI within the 95th percentile of their age group as time went on. Among kids who became obese between the ages of five and 14, about half had been overweight in the past and 75% were in a high BMI percentile at the start of the study.

MORE: Predicting Obesity At Birth

Obesity is connected to a high risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke among adults, and young children who spend more years overweight or obese may be putting themselves at even higher risk of these diseases, the scientists say.

The study highlights the dynamic between early weight gain and obesity, and the researchers say future work should focus on understanding what contributes to a child becoming overweight so early in life. The results suggest that education about weight gain and obesity prevention efforts may need to start earlier with families of young children, before youngsters become locked in a condition that’s difficult to change.

3 comments
iam.mansi88
iam.mansi88

I think things mentioned here are beyond a person's control as a 4 year old kid cannot exercise personal responsibility of his own diet and lets face it, a kid that age wouldn't even care. And in this regard, parents should always enforce healthy eating habits like never skipping a breakfast as it is still the most important meal of your day. When you miss your breakfast, you tend to eat more the very next time you eat anything. You know what that means! Yeah right, overeating. Having not to eat anything in the morning implies you haven’t eaten anything since the last night. This grounds the reason for breakfast being termed as breakfast. You break the fast post your dinner last night. And a recent study has also come out in this favor which scientifically proves that skipping breakfast can make you obese. People who wanna have more insights into what to eat and what not to eat for a healthy metabolic system, I suggest they read this: Eat this, not that

MooseKnuckles
MooseKnuckles

BMI doesn't mean much, it means something, but not much. A person who is 5'8" but weighs 185lbs is "obese", but that person may only have 8% body fat, the muscle weight defines them as obese according their BMI. 

BMI is a quick way to estimate your general mass but not health or fat conditions. Granted most kids aren't going to be muscular jack-shows and skewing the BMI. 
Parents should just be encouraging a healthy lifestyle and should be educating themselves on what that means. A salad might seem healthy, but you toss chemical rich bacon bits on it, high sodium croutons, and 200cal dressing you no longer really have a healthy meal for your kid.  

victoria123
victoria123

I really hope parents begin to understand how important it is to keep their children at a healthy weight and I hope that they receive the support necessary to achieve that. I have been very heavy since I was a toddler and it created a vicious cycle because I was too heavy to be able to be active which then caused me to gain more weight. The unfortunate thing is that my parents asked my pediatrician what to do and all they were told to do is give me less juice. I am still fat and although that's entirely my fault for never being able to lose it I don't think I would be so large if I had been a healthy weight when I was a child.