As First Lady Michelle Obama kicks off her national campaign to combat childhood obesity, new research has emerged that shows the "tipping point" in obesity often occurs before a child reaches age 2—and sometimes as early as 3 months.
Published online February 11, 2010, in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the study, from researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School, examined medical records from 111 overweight children (body mass index—BMI—above the 85th percentile for their age and gender). Researchers found that participants had started gaining too much weight as early as infancy, putting on an average of just under one extra BMI point per year. This progression toward obesity typically began when the children were 3 months old, with more than 50 percent of the children reaching a BMI classified as overweight at or before they turned 2—and 90 percent reaching an overweight BMI before reaching age 5.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, approximately 37 percent of US children are overweight, and 16 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese (BMI above the 95th for age and gender).
As any adult who has struggled with weight problems already knows, "getting parents and children to change habits that have already taken hold is a monumental challenge fraught with roadblocks and disappointments," says Dr. John Harrington, pediatrician and one of the study's lead authors, in an interview with LiveScience (via MSNBC).
As Harrington explains, "this study indicates that we may need to discuss inappropriate weight gain early in infancy to affect meaningful changes in the current trend of obesity."