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

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Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health. People are generally considered obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person's weight by the square of the person's height, is over 30 kg/m2, with the range25–30 kg/m2 defined as overweight.

Childhood obesity is aconcerning matter and an epidemic that is sweeping the globe. Worldwide, there are currently 41 million children under the age of five who are obese or overweight, and this number has increased by 10 million since 1990.

There isn’t one sole cause for childhood obesity, and contributing factors include everything from genetics and pregnancy habits to household income and the number of hours of TV children watch.

The effect of such disease on health and well-being has both immediate and long-term effects.

Immediate health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.

Long-term health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. 

 Interestingly in a study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, researchers discovered that 31 percent of parents are unable to properly identify the range in which their child’s weight falls. So if parents are unable to identify when their children are overweight, one possible solution to reducing rates of childhood obesity is to improve obesity testing in the doctor’s offices and clinics.

According to a new study presented on April 1 at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Boston,measuring the body mass index (BMI) of babies at 6 months old could identify children who are likely to develop obesity early in life.

Study researcher Dr. Allison Smego, from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues looked at the health records of 783 lean and 480 severely obese children who were between 2 and 6 years old.

Based on the children's growth and weight records, the researchers found that BMI trajectories differ between those who were severely obese at 6 years old and those with normal weight as early as when they were 4 months old.

Children whose BMI was above the 85th percentile rank were found to have three times the risk for severe obesity at age 6. The researchers said that a BMI at or above the 85th percentile by the time the child is at 6, 12 or 18 months strongly predicts the likelihood for severe obesity in childhood.

The researchers said that while it is not currently recommended to measure the children's BMI under age 2, they believe it should be because it can help identify babies who are at risk for obesity later.

Pediatricians can identify high-risk infants with BMI above the 85th percentile and focus additional counseling and education regarding healthy lifestyles toward the families of these children.

 

 

 

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