“With the consistent evidence that the percent of overweight children has steadily increased over the past decade, we weren’t surprised by the prevalence rates we found in our study, but we were surprised the trend began at such a young age,” says lead study author Brian Moss, from Wayne State University in Detroit.
The study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort to analyze the early weight of 16,400 U.S. children born in 2001. Of these, 8,900 were 9 months old and 7,500 were 2 years old.
The researchers found that 31.9 percent of babies at 9 months and 34.3 percent at 2 years of age were either at risk or obese. The study also found that children who were Hispanic and from lower-income families were at greater risk of being obese than white children, while Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had lower risk. Female children were at lower risk for obesity than males.
“Being in an undesirable weight category at 9 months subsequently predisposed children to remain in a less-desirable weight category,” says Moss, whose study results were published recently in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Childhood-obesity expert Joyce Lee, M.D, confirmed that obesity is indeed becoming a problem in increasingly younger children. “At younger ages, it is critical for parents to watch their child’s nutritional intake,” Lee says. “There is no approved ‘diet’ for children that young, so parents should communicate with their child’s healthcare provider about healthy ways to feed their child.”