A study from the Harvard Medical School's department of ambulatory care and prevention shows that today's children and babies are more likely to be overweight. The study reviewed more than 120,000 children aged 6 years and under in Massachusetts over a 22-year time period and found that, based on height and weight measures, the prevalence of overweight kids increased from 6.3% to 10%. For children at risk of becoming overweight, that statistic grew from 11.1% to 14.4%. Infants had the greatest jump in the risk of becoming overweight, an increase of 74% over the 22 years reviewed. Senior author Matthew Gillman, MD, says that figure is significant because "previous studies show that accelerated weight gain in the first few months after birth is associated with obesity later in life." According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids who are between the 85th and 95th percentile of the weight-for-height index are considered at risk for becoming overweight, and kids who are in the 95th percentile or higher are considered to be overweight. Gillman adds, "These results show that efforts to prevent obesity must start at the earliest stages of human development, even before birth. These efforts should include avoiding smoking and excessive weight gain during pregnancy, preventing gestational diabetes, and promoting breast-feeding, all of which researchers have shown to be associated with reductions in childhood overweight." Results can be found in the July issue of Obesity.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.