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Family Nutrition: Is it possible to predict obesity by 3.5 years old?

A recent study completed by the University of Montreal and published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine suggests that it may be possible to predict obesity as early as 3.5 years of age.  Laura Pryor, a PhD candidate, and her team analyzed data drawn from the Quebec Longitudinal study of child development which ran from 1998 to 2006.  1,957 children’s height and weights were analyzed from 5 months to 8 years of age.  In addition to weight and height, BMI’s (body mass index) were configured and analyzed and differentiated into three trajectory groups: children with low but stable BMI, children with moderate BMI, and high- rising BMI (elevated BMI that was rising).
An interesting summary from this study was that the research team noticed that all three trajectory groups were similar until about 2.5 years of age.  The BMI’s of the high-rising trajectory group increased significantly at 2.5 years of age and by middle school 50% of these children were obese.  When looking into factors to cause this, the researches hypothesized that the top two factors for this rise in BMI were the mother’s weight at child’s birth and the mother’s smoking status.  If the mother was overweight at the child’s birth or was a smoker, the child had a higher risk of being in the high-rising BMI trajectory group.  As stated by the Laura Pryer, this research only discusses increased probability for children to become overweight, not necessarily direct causes.
I would be interested to know what other environmental changes occur at 2.5 years old.  Did most of the children start attending a preschool that provided breakfasts and lunch?  Were diets adapted appropriately for the 2.5 year old child, such as changing milk to skim milk and increasing fruit and vegetable intake with whole grains and lean protein?  Either way, I think it is clear that toddler’s with high BMI’s had a 50% chance of becoming obese by middle school.  This proves again that healthy habits need to be a priority and introduced at a young age.  What do you do to instill healthy habits with your toddlers?

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