Child Obesity: 8 Red Flags to Watch For
Obesity Risk Factors Start Early in Life
May 19, 2005 -- Before a baby is born or early in life, he or she may
already be at risk for child obesity, says a British study.
Eight child obesity risk factors stand out, and some start before birth or
when children are still in diapers, says the study in BMJ Online First.
These factors increase the risk that a child will be obese by age 7:
- Parental obesity
- Higher birth weight
- Spending more than eight hours watching TV when 3 years old
- Sleeping less than 10.5 hours per night when 3 years old
- Size in early life
- Rapid weight gain in the first year of life
- Rapid catch-up growth between birth and 2 years
- Early development of body fatness in the preschool years (before age 5-6
years, when body fat should be increasing)
Child obesity is rising on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., an
estimated 16% of children aged 6-19 years were overweight in 1999-2000 -- a 45%
increase from 1988-1994, says the CDC. That doesn't mean that all of those
children were obese; obesity is at the extreme end of being overweight.
Being obese as a child can have a lifelong impact. Research has shown that
children who are obese or overweight often have weight problems when they grow
up. They may also be at higher risk for other health problems.
To learn more about the warning signs of child obesity, the University of
Glasgow's John Reilly and colleagues studied more than 9,000 British children.
Some of the eight risk factors were seen in a subset of about 1,000 children in
Like Parent, Like Child?
Kids were more likely to be obese at age 7 if one or both parents were
obese. The risk was higher if both parents were obese, says the study.
This isn't the first time parental obesity has been tagged as a risk factor
for child obesity. In the July 2004 issue of Pediatrics, researchers reported
that maternal obesity in early pregnancy more than doubles a child's risk of
obesity at ages 2-4 years.
Time Sleeping, Watching TV Mattered
Getting more sleep and watching less TV lowered kids' risk of being obese at
The details on that aren't totally clear. The researchers don't know if
physically active kids sleep more than others, or if kids were munching on food
while they watched TV.
Those are two risk factors that could be modified. Parents can also help
their kids by addressing their own weight issues and modeling a healthy
lifestyle that they'd like their children to copy.
Future studies should look at ways to modify risk factors before birth, in
infancy, or in early childhood, says the study.