A team of US doctors has urged that obesity screening start in the cradle after a study they conducted showed that half of US children with weight problems became overweight before age two.
The "critical period for preventing childhood obesity" in the children observed in the study would have been in "the first two years of life and for many by three months of age," said the study, published in Clinical Pediatrics.
"Unfortunately, the chubby healthy baby myth is alive and well despite the high prevalence of childhood obesity, with only 20 percent to 50 percent of overweight children being diagnosed and even fewer receiving documented or effective treatments," the authors of the study said.
For the study, which was conducted to try to pinpoint the "tipping point" for when a child first became overweight, researchers looked at 480 medical records for patients between the ages of two and 20 at a private medical practice and a teaching hospital, both in Virginia.
Of those patients, 184 were included in the study because they met the age criteria, their weight and height had been recorded during five visits to the medical practice, and they were overweight during one of the visits.
The researchers found that the median age for when the children became overweight was 22 months. They also found that a quarter of the children reached their overweight "tipping point" at or before five months of age.
When the children who were overweight on their first visit to the practices were taken into account, the median tipping point age dropped to 15 months and a quarter of the subjects had a weight problem at or before three months of age.
The study recommends that health care providers begin screening for excessive weight gain "as early as possible" in order to prevent childhood obesity, rather than trying to reverse it once a weight problem as "spiralled out of control."
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2007, nearly half of US children are either overweight or obese, said the study, which was published two days after First Lady Michelle Obama launched a nationwide campaign to push back childhood obesity.