In U.S., Obesity Afflicts Even Some of the Tiniest
FRIDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- American kids are becoming
obese, or nearly so, at an increasingly young age, with about
one-third of them falling into that category by the time they're 9
months old, researchers have found.
There are some caveats about the research, however. The infants
were not studied recently: They were born about a decade ago. And
it's not clear how excess weight in babies may affect their health
later in their lives. The study found no guarantee that a baby
who's overweight at 9 months will stay flabby when his or her
second birthday rolls around.
Still, the study -- in the January-February 2011 issue of the
American Journal of Health Promotion -- does present a
picture of babies and infants who are carrying around a lot of
The findings also suggest that small changes in an infant's diet
can make a big difference, said Dr. Wendy Slusser, medical director
of a children's weight program at Mattel Children's Hospital at the
University of California, Los Angeles. For example, she said, "if
you don't give your kid juice and have them eat the fruit instead,
suddenly there's 150 calories less a day that can make a big
difference in weight gain over a long term."
The researchers examined federal data about 16,400 children in
the United States who were born in 2001. After adjusting the
statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by such factors as high
numbers of certain kinds of kids, the study authors found that 17
percent of 9-month-olds were obese and 15 percent were at risk for
obesity, for a total of 32 percent.
At two years, 21 percent were obese and 14 percent were at risk
of becoming obese, the investigators found.
"It seems like there tends to be a shift to kids getting heavier" over time, said the study's lead author, Brian G. Moss, an adjunct faculty member at Wayne State University School of Social Work. And their weight gain, he said, is beyond that which would be expected as youngsters grow.
Hispanics and poor kids as a whole were at highest risk, the
study found, whereas girls and Asian/Pacific Islanders had the
But why are young children so heavy and getting heavier, as a
whole, over time? The study didn't examine the reasons. Moss said
the changes could have something to do with changes in their lives,
such as entering daycare or starting to eat regular food, but the
precise causes are not clear.
However, the research does suggest that infants aren't doomed to
be overweight once they put on extra pounds, said Slusser, the
children's hospital medical director. "There's this fluidity," she
said, "a lot of movement back and forth into these categories."
So what is her advice for those who have an infant or one on the
way? "You really need to reflect on the habits you have with your
child," Slusser said. For instance, make sure the infant gets
regular meals and snacks along with a good night's sleep and naps,
she said. And pick a daycare center that offers healthy foods and
opportunities for moving around.
And breast-feeding, she said, is ideal -- especially during the
first six months, when specialists recommend that breast milk
should be the exclusive source of food for babies.
The Nemours Foundation offers more on
breast-feeding versus formula feeding.
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