Excess weight gain in infancy and childhood is associated with increased risk of subsequent obesity. Identifying patterns of infancy and childhood weight gain associated with subsequent obesity or overweight status could help identify children at highest risk. Thus, researchers examined patterns of infancy and early childhood BMI in relation to mid-childhood overweight and obesity status.
In a prospective cohort of 215 children from Cincinnati, OH (born: 2003–2006), this study, conducted by lead author Dr. Joseph Braun, assistant professor of public health and assistant professor of epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health, measured weight and length or height at ages 4 weeks and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 years. BMI z-scores were calculated using World Health Organization references. Using linear fixed effect models, researchers estimated mean BMI at each age and rates of change in BMI between ages 4 weeks and 5 years by children’s overweight and obesity status at age 8 years, assessed with BMI z-scores or bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA).
[Photo: Dr. Joseph Braun]
Children who became overweight (BMI, n = 51 and BIA, n = 37) or obese (BMI, n = 22 and BIA, n = 29) at age 8 years had greater BMI at all ages compared to normal weight children. Children who were overweight had similar rates of change in BMI as children who were lean. Children who were obese had greater gains in BMI between age 4 weeks and 5 years, with the most rapid gains in the first 2 years.
Results from this study suggest that adiposity patterns in the first 5 years of life are related to subsequent childhood overweight and obesity risk. Future efforts to identify interventions to prevent childhood obesity should focus on the periods of gestation and infancy as obesity risk may be malleable during these periods.
This article was published in BMC Pediatrics in May.