The growth charts that paediatricians use can predict a baby’s probability of becoming obese later in life.
A population-based study by the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, funded by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, tracked more than 44,000 babies.
It found that those who rose two or more major percentiles in weight-for-length on their growth charts at any time before two years doubled their odds of obesity at five years and were nearly twice as likely to be obese at age 10.
Weight-for-length percentiles show how a baby’s weight compares to that of other babies of the same length, the journal Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reports.
The study further found the highest prevalence of later obesity among babies who rose two or more weight-for-length percentiles before six months of age, or who were already in a high percentile at their first visit, according to a Children Hospital’s statement.
The findings provide specific guidance to help paediatricians recognise when a baby is at true risk of becoming obese later in childhood, which may help stem the obesity epidemic in its earliest stages, says Elsie Taveras of Harvard medical School, who led the study.
“We shouldn’t neglect these early gains and think that it’s just baby fat, and that these children are going to grow out of it,” says Taveras, also co-director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard.