Over the last decade, childhood obesity has grown into an epidemic, reflected in soaring rates of type 2 diabetes and recommendations that pediatricians check toddlers for elevated cholesterol.
Now, the latest study presented at a pediatric research program on Friday suggests that obesity prevention efforts should begin as early as age two.
"This study suggests that doctors may want to start reviewing the diet of children during early well-child visits," said John W. Harrington, M.D., a pediatrician at Virginia's Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters (CHKD).
"By the time they reach eight years old, they're already far into the overweight category, making treatment more difficult," he added.
The study examined records of 111 overweight children from a suburban pediatric practice. All of the children had their height and weight measured at least five times during pediatric visits. The average age was 12.
Children whose body mass index exceeded that of 85 percent of the general population were classified as overweight. Researchers charted the recorded body mass index of the children from infancy.
Fro, the analysis, the researchers found that the children had started gaining weight in infancy at an average rate of .08 excess BMI units per month. On average, they began this progression at three months of age.
Over half the children could be classified as overweight at two years old, 90 percent before reaching their fifth birthday.