Childhood obesity: predicted as early as 6 months of age?
A new study suggests childhood obesity could be possibly predicted as early as 6 months of age. By measuring simple body mass index (BMI), researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Center found that by evaluating babies at 6, 12 and 18 months of age who were above the 85th percentile on the growth chart could have a greater risk for early childhood obesity. The study is topical considering that in the past three decades childhood obesity rates doubled, according to the CDC.
Keep in mind that having a big baby doesn’t mean you’ll have an obese child. If your baby is very large, just consider it a reminder to talk with your pediatrician about how to help your child grow up to be strong, fit and healthy – by starting with the right first foods and habits from the beginning.
Taking a closer look
The researchers studied several groups of children of lean and obese children under the age of 6. All participants were selected based on BMI between the ages of 2 and 6. In all, 783 lean and 480 severely obese participants were included.
Initial findings suggest that the accelerating rate of BMI in children who become severely obese by age 6 began to differ from children who remain normal weight at about 4 months of age. Results of the study were tested in a population of young children seen in a hospital-based pediatric clinic in Denver to determine if the findings applied to other groups of children.
Most pediatricians don't currently recommend measuring BMI in children under the age of 2. Regardless, your pediatrician can help you keep your child on the right track.
Wellness starts early
Obese children are 70 percent more likely to become obese adults. As a result, they remain at greater risk of chronic health problems including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, some cancers, and more.
Here are some time-tested tips to help you fight childhood obesity.
Start with a healthy diet
Serve age-appropriate drinks and snacks says the Harvard School of Public Health. Their advice is to limit children ages 1 to 6 to 4 - 6 ounces of juice per day including at home. If you have older children, consider adding them to your weekly meal planning. Encourage them to be more aware of what they're eating and how it affects them. Go online with them to discover healthy dinner ideas. Show them some of the stats of fast food restaurants. Have them help prepare and serve. Talk to them about calories and normal portion sizes.
Pack nutritious snacks
As they get older, send your kid to school with healthy snacks. Include vegetables like carrot sticks, celery with peanut butter or apple slices. Keep sugar away from your kitchen table. Add a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit to the counter. Also consider nuts (if your child has no food allergies) and other healthy trail mix ingredients like raisins and sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
Make sure your kids get plenty of exercise. With gym at school not always an option, help them find an activity they can enjoy. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends children ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
Help your son or daughter discover something they like participating in by themselves or with others. Consider these activities as a starting place:
- Aerobics such as walking, skipping, playing soccer, basketball or lacrosse.
- Bone strengthening, which includes jumping rope or running.
- Muscle strengthening, including running, rowing, gymnastics, push-up and sit-ups.
Set limits for TV and games
Monitor the screen time of your child. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, media use by children younger than age 2 is not recommended and suggests limiting older children's screen time to no more than one or two hours a day.
Lead by example
Most important of all in keeping your child's weight healthy, remember that your habits influence your children. When your son or daughter sees you choosing the stairs over the elevator, or working out, it will be easier for them to follow suit. You can’t control all their activities or where they eat, but you can try raising a healthy kid by establishing a healthy environment at home.
And always bring your questions or concerns about your child’s nutrition or activity to your pediatrician.