New Study Supports Case that Obesity Begins in Early Childhood

NEJM Obesity Title 14-2-5

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (370: 403-311, 2014; January 30, 2014) supports the notion that the development of an overweight condition and/or obesity in early childhood are important causes of the increase in obesity rates in the US. In this study, 7738 children who were in kindergarten during the 1998–1999 school year were studied in a prospective longitudinal study of the incidence of obesity among children.

Points that were most striking in the study were:
1. The prevalence of obesity in children in kindergarten of 12% was remarkable; then by 5th grade the remaining increase in obesity to 22% was also quite eye opening.
2. The socioeconomic effects were extremely strong and undeniable. Children in the top quintile of socio-economic status had about half the prevalence of obesity at each age studied.
3. Birth weight above 8.8 pounds was a very strong predictor of obesity.

Not having looked closely at obesity statistics in early childhood before, my interpretations of these data are:
a. Obesity is occurring very early in life and any attempt to lower it must target women before pregnancy and the first 5 years of early childhood.
b. The most important way to combat obesity would be nutrition education for women before they become pregnant. My obesity class students made the point that women do not obtain enough education about nutrition and how it impacts their babies.
c. The early child years are crucial and more studies are needed in the early time frame.
d. The socioeconomic data of the current study merges with the views put forth by the documentary, “A place at the table,” directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush. The movie shows that people in the low-income strata often eat foods, mostly because they are relatively inexpensive, that are calorie dense and are relatively low in nutrients.

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