Those Chubby Cheeks
There's been a lot of talk in the news about overweight kids, and for good reason. First Lady Michelle Obama has even gotten involved. Her campaign, "Let's Move"—supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—is focused on preventing childhood obesity and getting kids physically active.
Research has found a strong connection between the weight of these little people and what their weight will be like when they are adults. As the obesity epidemic becomes more widespread, it's of the utmost importance that parents play an active role in the nutrition and activity level of their children, right from the beginning.
For Kelly Pasquariello-Wadel of Tampa, Florida, the toddler weight issue is one that she and her husband have struggled with. "I'm concerned because my husband and I both have a tendency to be overweight, and I don't want that for my kids," Wadel says. "Also, as a teacher, I saw how hard it was for the little ones who were overweight."
In February 2010, the online edition of the journal Clinical Pediatrics published a study that found the obesity "tipping point" often occurs before a child reaches the age of 2—and sometimes as early as 3 months. Earlier research (Pediatrics, 2006) had already determined that what a child weighed as early as the age of 2 or 3 was a factor in what they weighed when they were 12.
"Overweight kids are the most important pediatric health problem this country faces," says Dr. David Olson, a pediatrician in Traverse City, Michigan. "Overweight kids unfortunately become overweight adults a high percentage of the time."
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 percentile for age and gender).
Much to the surprise of many parents, the cute baby fat could be long-lasting, as toddler weight issues put those kids at a five times greater risk of being overweight or obese later on. Until recent research connected the two, many parents simply overlooked any weight issues their toddlers had, assuming they would naturally grow out of it, and that it was just a harmless phase. Now, however, people are realizing that's simply not the case.
"Obesity in kids leads to obesity in adults, causing problems in virtually every body system and leading to death and disability at ages when people should be in the prime of life," says Dr. Olson.