Big and fast growing infants at greater risk of later obesity

October 13, 2005

Large infants, and those who grow rapidly during the first two years of life, are at increased risk of obesity in childhood and adulthood, a study published online by the BMJ today (14 October 2005) has found.

There is an urgent need to tackle rising levels of obesity in the population. However it is not clear how early in life prevention could begin. This study examines the relation between infant size and growth and later obesity.

Researchers analysed 24 studies which assessed the relation between infant size and growth and the development of obesity at any later age. They found that the heaviest infants, those with the highest body mass index, and those who gained weight rapidly during the first and second year of life, were more likely to be obese in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood than other infants.

The authors believe that factors during or before infancy that are related to infant growth probably influence the risk of later obesity.

They suggest that future studies need to investigate what determines these patterns of growth, and to explore whether interventions to alter infant growth could be associated with other benefits or harms.

It will also be important to assess whether factors influencing infant growth are amenable to change, to establish which strategies might alter infant growth, and to find out whether these are acceptable to parents, they conclude.
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BMJ

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