Philadelphia, Pa. Rapid rates of weight gain during infancy could be linked to obesity later in childhood, report researchers in the February issue of Pediatrics. By studying a large, diverse cohort of U.S. children, researchers at The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that rapid weight gain during the first four months of life was significantly associated with an increased risk of being overweight at age seven, regardless of birth weight and weight at one year of age.
Early infancy seems to be a critical period for the establishment of obesity. Babies double their birth weight during the first four to six months, so this may be a period for the establishment of weight regulation. A rapid rate of early weight gain may also be related to cardiovascular disease later in life; both conditions often cluster in individuals, said Nicolas Stettler, M.D., M.C.S.E., a pediatric nutrition specialist at Childrens Hospital and primary investigator of the study.
The study looked at data for 19,000 children who were born at term gestation between 1959 and 1965 in 12 U.S. cities. The authors used the presently recommended definition for overweight status a sex-specific body mass index that is greater than 95 percent of the U.S. population at any given age. The study also found that with even a modest increase in weight gain of 100 extra grams per month during infancy, the risk of being overweight at age seven was raised by more than 25 percent. Starting with a birth weight of 7 pounds (3.2 kg), those 100 extra grams per month would result in a weight at age four months of approximately 14 pounds (6.4 kg), compared to approximately 13 pounds (6.0 kg) under a normal pattern of weight gain.
The greatest proportional weight gain in early infancy occurs in the first four to six months after birth. One hypothesis is that this timeframe corresponds to a critical period for the development of biolog
Contact: Joey Marie McCool
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia