Obesity risk likely established in early childhood, study says

February 3, 2014

More than a third of Americans are obese, but the start of that health problem may take root earlier than it was once thought.

 

More than a third of Americans are obese, but the start of that health problem may take root earlier than it was once thought. A recent study shows that children, who are obese at the age of five, when they are entering kindergarten, are more likely to be obese as teens.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. It tracked the height and weight of 7,738 children as they entered kindergarten in 1998 until they entered eighth grade in 2007.

Upon entering kindergarten, 12.4% of the kids were obese and 14.9% were overweight. By the time the students entered eighth grade, 20.8% were obese and 17% were overweight.

The children who were overweight at the age of five were four times more likely to than normal-weight children to become obese.

Although the study did not measure the weights of the children beyond age 14, its findings suggest that weight interventions need to occur earlier than they do now and may need to be focused on children who are already overweight as they enter school.

A separate study released this week by the World Health Organization found that tighter regulation of the global fast food industry could slow, or even reverse, the growing obesity epidemic