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Obesity in early childhood often persists
The foundation stone for obesity and obesity is often laid before school. A German team of researchers shows that around 90 percent of children who were already overweight by the age of two to six years also suffer from excessive body weight later than adolescents. The team tracked the weight gain of 51,000 adolescents from birth to adulthood.
Researchers at Leipzig University Medicine have documented that early childhood has a decisive influence on the development of overweight and obesity. Using data from 51,505 children, the scientists were able to show that 90 percent of the children who were overweight by the age of three also retained this in adolescence. The study results were recently published in the specialist magazine "New England Journal of Medicine".
Obesity in children's shoes
"The disease often manifests itself very early in childhood," explains the head of the study, Professor Dr. Antje Körner in a press release from the University of Leipzig. At the same time, the probability that small children with obesity will return to a normal weight in adolescence is less than 20 percent.
The critical age for long-term obesity
As the researchers showed in the long-term study, children who are obese in the first two years of life have a 50 percent chance of returning to normal weight. From the age of three, this probability drops to only ten percent. Conversely: "Around 90 percent of these children were overweight or obese as adolescents," write the experts.
The risk is greatest between two and six years
"With our data we were able to show that the weight of adolescents with overweight and obesity increased most strongly between two and six years," summarizes Körner. Even after that, the BMI (Body Mass Index) continues to rise, which makes the degree of obesity worse every year.
Birth weight also has an impact
According to the analysis, birth weight also has an impact on the later development of body weight. Around half of the babies who were very tall and heavy at birth also showed a higher BMI in childhood and adolescence. In contrast, over 70 percent of children with normal or low birth weight did not develop overweight later.
Not every overweight adult was an overweight child
"Of course, the frequency of being overweight is even higher in adults and not every overweight adult was an overweight child," emphasizes Körner. However, most children are still overweight in adulthood. Excessive weight gain in children under the age of six could be an early warning of later obesity.
Intervene early to prevent complications
"If obesity sets in early in childhood, it mostly remains - with all the consequences for the development of secondary diseases such as high blood pressure in adolescence or young adulthood," warns Prof. Dr. Antje Körner. The expert suggests that pediatricians, educators, and parents should start monitoring growth and weight early to identify children at risk. (vb)