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Infant weight gain linked to childhood obesity
Date:3/29/2009

ren. They isolated a subgroup of 559 mother/child pairs and studied patterns of weight gain in infancy and their subsequent three-year effect. In addition to looking at static weight and length measures, the team also looked at weight gain as a dynamic process, measuring not only how much but how quickly an infant gained weight.

The connection between rapid infant weight gain and later obesity was striking, even after adjusting for factors such as premature babies or those underweight at birth. Take for example two infants with the same birth weight who, after six months, weigh 7.7 kg (16.9 pounds) and 8.4 kg (18.4 pounds), a 0.7 kg (1.5 pounds) difference. According to study estimates, the heavier of these two infants would have a 40% higher risk of obesity at age 3 (after adjusting for potential confounders).

While this study confirms earlier ones examining the relation between infancy and childhood weight, there were certain limitations. For example, the researchers weren't able to examine social and behavioral interactions around feeding between parents and infants. And while families in the study represented various ethnic backgrounds, they were fairly homogeneous socioeconomically, so there may be some question regarding how widely the results can be generalized.

Still, when seen in the context of other research, the relationship between infant and childhood weight is compelling.

"There is still a lot more we need to understand about the mechanisms of how this all fits together," says Taveras. "But this data clearly shows how the earliest interventions might actually have very long-term benefits."

Taveras also points out that these findings provide initial evidence that our cultural affirmation of infants who top the growth charts, and even our notions of appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, may prove to be excessive.

"At first it may seem implausible that weight gain over just a few months early i
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Contact: David Cameron
david_cameron@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0441
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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