Study sheds new light on link between birth weight, obesity, and childhood growth

December 06, 2001

Fetal and early life growth and body mass index from birth to early adulthood in 1958 British cohort: longitudinal study BMJ Volume 323, pp 1331-5

Editorial: Adult obesity and growth in childhood BMJ Volume 323, pp 1320-1


Boys who are light at birth, but then grow rapidly during childhood, are more likely to be obese as adults, is just one of the findings from a large study in this week's BMJ. These potentially complex interrelationships may hold the key to effective preventive strategies.

Tessa Parsons and colleagues used data collected from all children born in England, Scotland, and Wales in the week of 3-9 March 1958 to establish whether birth weight is related to obesity at different life stages.

Not surprisingly, they found that heavier mothers have heavier babies and these children tend to become heavier adults. They also found that rapid growth in childhood (up to age 7) increased the risk of obesity in adulthood, especially in men who had been light at birth or who had thin mothers.

This is an important finding as this pattern of growth is becoming common in developing countries that are experiencing a nutritional transition to Western lifestyles, writes Catherine Law in an accompanying editorial.

Instead of concentrating research efforts on developing drug treatments for established adult obesity, perhaps we should use what we know already to design and evaluate social, behavioural, or policy interventions, which prevent children from becoming overweight, she concludes.
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BMJ

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