A new study finds a sharp increase in the number of fat babies; the trend that the researchers feel could have a worrisome implication for the nation's obesity epidemic.
Researchers from the Harvard Medical School, who had published their findings of the study in the July issue of Obesity, have shown a 73.5% increase in fat babies over a period of 22-year. Researchers have said that infants now are 59% more likely to be overweight than what they were two decades ago.
Dr. Matthew Gillman, senior author and associate professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard, said, "Even our very youngest children are gaining excess weight, not just adults and adolescents." Explaining that there were several factors that probably play a key role, he said that right now there are more babies who are large for their gestational age at birth than a quarter-century ago, and this was mainly because the mothers to be were entering pregnancy overweight and subsequently developing gestational diabetes when they are pregnant. What these numbers and study suggests, Dr Gillman said was that, "Our obesity prevention efforts need to start at the earliest stages of human development."
Researchers explained that they had collected data from visiting more than 120,000 children under the age of six between the years 1980 and 2001. They reported that all the children were from Massachusetts and had enrolled in a health maintenance organization, which provided the medical records that contained the necessary demographic and growth information.
They stated that they were shocked at the results of the study for the youngest age group, which were the infants from birth to six months of age. The researchers found that as they were continuing with the study they found that the number of overweight infants increased by 74%. They also found that the infants also experienced a 59% leap in the risk of becoming overweight, which was the biggest increase in any age group. They explained that hey classified children as overweight or at the risk of becoming so on the basis of reference data and growth charts from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stephanie Atkinson, a paediatrics research scientist from the McMaster University, stated that though it is widely known that obesity in children is on the rise, she felt that the results of the study might not hold true for Canadian babies. Stating that, "The reason I'd be cautious about extrapolating that information here is that we have a lot higher rate of breast feeding in Canada than the U.S. has been able to achieve," Dr. Atkinson further added, "Babies that are breastfed regulate their intake on their own, while babies on formula eat more. Parents kind of encourage them to finish every last drop, so formula babies do gain weight a lot quicker than breastfed babies."
Dr. Atkinson explained that these kinds of studies should act as a wake up call to parents for them to ensure that their children receive the proper nutrition. Dr. Atkinson said, "There are some stunning statistics as to the per cent of calories being consumed by children these days." She also said, "When you're obese the risk factor goes up for type 2 diabetes, which in turn can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can all start by being overweight as a kid."
It was reported that previous studies had suggested that being overweight as child could hugely increase the risk of obesity and other health problems as an adult. The researchers of the study were of the opinion that mothers should try and quit smoking and excessive weight gain during their pregnancy and should breastfeed their babies so as to reduce the risk of having overweight infants.