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Get an Early Start to Ward off Childhood Overweight

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Here’s more fuel to add to the childhood obesity flame. A couple of interesting reports came out this week highlighting risk factors that may predispose our kids to being overweight. Listen up if you want to know what to be on the lookout for.

The first, Identifying Risk for Obesity in Early Childhood, a study from the journal Pediatrics, has found that tracking growth patterns of children over time (starting when they are in preschool) can predict their chances of being overweight when they reach the age of 12.

Ok, let’s define childhood overweight before we get into more detail. In this study if children had a body mass index over the 85th percentile they were considered overweight. Body mass index is a measure of weight compared to height.

So, the nuts and bolts of the study are, if a child is overweight at any time before the age of 12, the higher his chances are for being overweight when he actually reaches 12. And the more times he is measured as being overweight during that period, his chances for ending up overweight at 12 increase. In other words, if the child is found to be overweight at 3, 5 and 7 years old, his chances are much higher than if he was measured as overweight one time, say at 3 years old only. Here are the numbers according to the study authors:
-if a child was overweight just once, he was 25 times more likely to be overweight at age 12, than a child who was never measured as being overweight;
-if he was measured as overweight two times he was 159 times more likely;
-and for three times he was 374 times more likely.

That’s big stakes.

There’s always hope and that’s where the second report comes in. But we’ve got to start early (although it is never too late to make changes at any time in your child’s life or your life). In the report, What You Feed Your Baby Now May Impact His Waistline Later, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System advise that feeding babies (wait until at least 4 months of age for solids) and toddlers lots of whole fruits and vegetables early on may help them control their waistline later in life. Giving them any kind of sweets too early can predispose them to consuming too many of these foods later, possibly increasing their risk for obesity.

So if it’s that easy let’s get started! And parents you have to get in the game too. If we want our kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer sweets, than we’ve got to do that as well, and in front of them. We must always remember that we are models of behavior for our kids.

With that being said, please share with us the techniques and tricks you use at home or at school to get your child and/or other kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? Send in your tips and I’ll post them so everyone can try them.

(for more info on these reports click on the underlined links above)
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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