Does Baby Fat Lead to Obesity?
There's new evidence that baby fat may not always be so cute after all. Babies that gain a lot of weight quickly in their first six months of life are at increased risk for becoming obese by the time they become toddlers, according to new research.
Obesity rates among children in the United States have doubled in the last 20 years, and nearly one-third of U.S. children are now considered overweight or obese. The rapid increase has triggered alarm because obesity is linked to a host of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
In the new study, Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School and her colleagues studied 559 mothers and their babies living in the Boston area participating in Project Viva, an ongoing study of pregnant women and their children. Those that gained weight quickly during their first six months of life were about 40 percent more likely to be obese by age 3, the researchers reported this week in the journal Pediatrics. That's after the researchers took other into account other factors that might affect the child's weight, such as socioeconomic status and the weight of mothers during their pregnancy. It didn't seem to make a difference whether babies were breast or bottle-fed.
The researchers stressed that the findings should not prompt parents to put newborns on diets. But they indicate that more research is needed to understand what constitutes healthy weight gain among newborns.
As for obesity among older children, one answer could be as simple as the hallway water fountain. Another study in the same issue of Pediatrics found that students attending schools in Germany where water fountains were installed and teachers encouraged their students to use them were about 30 percent less likely to be overweight. The idea is that drinking water may reduce intake of soda or snacks.
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