Risk Factors Predict Childhood Obesity
6th November 2012
High birth weight, rapid weight gain and having an overweight mother who smokes can all increase the risk of a baby becoming obese later in childhood, research by experts at The University of Nottingham has found.
The study, the first of its kind to review all the evidence for risk factors in infancy associated with childhood obesity, also discovered that children who were breastfed and were introduced to solid food later had a slightly reduced chance of becoming overweight.
The findings come following a systematic review and analysis of data from around 30 previous studies looking at the impact of factors affecting babies during the first 12 months of their lives and their potential link with childhood obesity.
In the UK around one-quarter of children aged four to five years old and one-third of 10 to 11-year-olds are overweight and evidence suggests that children who are overweight at the age of five are more likely to be obese in adulthood.
Up to now, support from GPs and health visitors has centred on advice on healthy eating and breastfeeding but many practitioners believe more should be done to identify infants who are at risk of becoming obese at an earlier age.
The analysis showed that:
- Children of mothers who were overweight before pregnancy were 1.37 times more likely to be overweight at the age of three; 4.25 more likely to be overweight at the age of seven; and 2.36 times more likely to be overweight between the ages of nine and 14 years.
- There is a significant association between babies who were heavy at birth and obesity in later childhood.
- Rapid weight gain in babies in their first year of life is strongly linked with obesity — one study found that those babies in the top 20 per cent of monthly weight gain were 3.9 times more likely to be overweight at the age of four and a half years old.
- Children with mothers who smoked during pregnancy were 47 per cent more likely to be overweight compared to the children of non-smoking mothers.
- Children who were breastfed — however briefly — were 15 per cent less likely to become overweight in childhood compared to those children who were never breastfed.
- There is some evidence that giving solid foods early can be linked to later obesity — one study found that formula-fed babies given solid foods before four months were 6.3 times more likely to be overweight at three years of age than those where solid food was introduced between four and five months.
- There is no compelling evidence to show a link between childhood obesity and maternal age or education at birth, maternal depression or ethnicity and inconclusive evidence for delivery type, weight gain in the womb, maternal weight loss after birth and ‘fussy’ infant temperament.
Weng S F et al. Systematic review and meta-analyses of risk factors for childhood overweight identifiable during infancy. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2012; 97(12):1019-26. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2012-302263. Epub 2012 Oct 29.
Categories: Weight Management, Children's Health