A new study has revealed that obesity can begin in babies as young as nine months old.
"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," said lead study author Brian Moss, at the social work school at Wayne State University in Detroit.
The researchers analysed the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort data collected on 16,400 American children born in 2001. Of these, 8,900 were nine-months-old and 7,500 were two-years-old.
They found that 31.9 percent of nine-months-old babies and 34.3 percent of two-year-olds were either at risk or obese.
The researchers also found that girls were at lower risk of obesity than boys.
Children, who were Hispanic and from lower-income families, were also found to be at greater risk of being obese than white children, while Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had lower risk.
"Being in an undesirable weight category at nine months subsequently predisposed children to remain in a less desirable weight category," said Moss.
Childhood obesity expert Joyce Lee, MD, an assistant professor in pediatric endocrinology and health services research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 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 as this will be the main determinant of their weight status," he said.
"There is no approved 'diet' for children that young, so parents should communicate with their child's health care provider about healthy ways to feed their child," he added.
The study is published in the January-February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.