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Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Date:3/30/2009

Harvard study suggests earliest intervention may reduce risk

MONDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Babies who gain weight quickly during the first six months of life may be more prone to obesity as toddlers, Harvard researchers report.

"We need to start our preventive methods when children are much younger," said study author Dr. Elsie M. Taveras. "Even in the first couple of weeks of life, we can start guiding parents about how to prevent rapid weight gain in their infants."

While past research has established a link between birth weight and obesity, the impact of factors such as length of gestation, height and lifestyle of the mother were often not considered.

The researchers tracked 559 children who were part of Project Viva, an ongoing study of pregnant women and their children. The babies were measured for weight and height at birth, at 6 months and again at the age of 3.

After adjusting for factors such as the babies' length, researchers found that those who increased their body-mass index (BMI) during their first six months were more likely to be classified as obese at age 3.

"At present, most guidelines around obesity management recommend that we start assessment and treatment of children after the age of 2," Taveras said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly a third of adults in the United States are obese. Obese people are 10 percent to 50 percent more likely to die of all causes. In 2000, the obesity epidemic cost the U.S. health system $117 billion.

"The key indication for this study is the importance of better education about feeding infants," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. "Since the study did not look at what children were fed after weaning, it is hard to know if overfeeding then is a contributor."

Addressing this issue may involve simply making minor changes. In Ger
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