Predicting Obesity At Birth

Researchers say they have a formula for divining which newborns are at highest risk of becoming obese during childhood. With childhood obesity rates tripling over the last 30 years in the U.S., there is an urgent need to find better ways of curbing weight gain, and the earlier these efforts start, the better. So an international group of scientists have developed a model for predicting a child’s risk of developing obesity, which they hope will encourage parents to take early action to improve their children’s health. (MORE: Study: Obese Kids Have Less Sensitive Taste Buds) “Many believe the critical time for the development of obesity is between ages zero and five—before kids go to school,” says lead study author Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “Each year after age five is too late, and we wanted to find a way to predict the likelihood at birth. There are many non-genetic factors that are easy to analyze and are costless.” To develop their formula, called the obesity risk calculator, the researchers analyzed data from the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort that tracks a population of over 4,000 participants who were born in 1986. The scientists looked at five risk factors for obesity, including birth weight, body mass index (BMI) of the parents, the number of people in the newborn’s household, mother’s professional status and the mother’s smoking status during pregnancy. Each of these has been linked to obesity, either by promoting weight gain in a physiological or behavioral way; working mothers, for example, tend to make fewer meals at home, and their children are more likely to eat higher-calorie meals prepared at restaurants or in processed packages, while heavier parents may pass on obesity-related genes to their children. (MORE: Can Laws Against Junk Food in Schools Rein In Child Obesity?) The obesity risk calculator accurately predicted obesity rates among kids in the Finnish cohort, as well as two additional cohorts in Italy and the United States. About 20% of those kids predicted to have the highest risk … Continue reading Predicting Obesity At Birth