Infant's BMI May Predict Early Childhood Obesity, Study Says

Infant's BMI May Predict Early Childhood Obesity, Study Says

Infant's BMI May Predict Early Childhood Obesity, Study Says

Pediatricians should assess body mass index beginning at 6 months, researchers advise

SOURCE: Endocrine Society, news release, April 1, 2016

FRIDAY, April 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A high body mass index (BMI) in infancy may predict which children are likely to be obese at age 6 years, scientists say.

"Our study shows that growth patterns in children who become severely obese by 6 years of age differ from normal-weight children as young as 4 to 6 months of age," said the study lead investigator, Dr. Allison Smego. She is a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. This tool isn't routinely used on children younger than 2 years, but the researchers hope their findings will change that.

For the study, they examined electronic health records of 480 severely obese children between 2 and 6 years in the Cincinnati area. These children had a BMI above the 99th percentile.

Children with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile for their age and gender are considered overweight. Those with a BMI at the 95th percentile or higher are considered obese.

The researchers also analyzed the records of nearly 800 kids between 2 and 6 years old who were at a healthy weight and had a BMI between the 5th and 75th percentiles.

The study showed that BMI began to shift in different directions among infants in the two groups as early as 4 months old. The researchers noted that most of the obese children were black and from low-income households.

To confirm their findings, the researchers repeated their study in a third group of nearly 2,650 children in Colorado. This trial, which involved more Hispanic children, showed that a BMI above the 85th percentile at least tripled the likelihood that a child would struggle with severe obesity by the age of 6 years.

The study authors concluded that a BMI above the 85th percentile at 6, 12 or 18 months of age was a strong predictor of severe obesity by the age of 6 years.

The study's findings were expected to be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, in Boston. Until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary.

"Based on our findings, we recommend that pediatricians routinely measure BMI at infant well-child assessments beginning at 6 months, identify high-risk infants with BMI above the 85th percentile, and focus additional counseling and education regarding healthy lifestyle toward the families of these children," Smego said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.

"It might take the pediatrician a minute to look at BMI, yet it gives them a wealth of knowledge about how their patient is growing," Smego added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more on childhood obesity.
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