Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity

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Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity

Two Boston researchers have found that babies who experience rapid weight gain in the first few months of life are candidates for childhood obesity, regardless of what they weighed at birth.

Researchers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston studied nearly 600 children over the course of three years during Project Viva, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Doctors made record of each child’s body weight and height at birth, six months and then three years old. These measurements were always taken with weight seen as relative to height. The findings consistently showed that rapid weight gain during a child’s first few months had a greater influence in causing obesity than the child’s birth weight — and this includes children born premature or with a lower weight than average. One example in the study shows two infants born weighing the same but then, at six months old, differing in weight by 1.5 pounds. According to calculations during research, the heavier infant could carry a 40 percent higher risk of becoming obese by age 3.

Results from this study appear this month in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Future studies are being considered to see if the bonding relationship between babies and caregivers has any impact on eating habits during infancy. But, the researchers say the current findings of Project Viva could be a key to early intervention for babies, since childhood obesity can be linked to health problems in later life.

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