A new study chronicles a sharp rise in the number of infants and toddlers who were classified as obese between 1989 and 1998. The results, published in the February 10th issue of the British Medical Journal, underscore the need to encourage even very young children to be physically active and follow a healthy diet. Overweight children are more likely than their leaner peers to grow into obese adults, and excess weight is a major risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and death.
The British researchers compared the heights and weights of more than 35,500 infants aged 1 to 3 months and nearly 29,000 toddlers from just under 3 years old to 4 years old living in England. During the study period, the rate of obesity among all children rose to 9% from 5% and the rate of overweight rose to 24% from 15%. The researchers said that low levels of long-term breastfeeding and the hectic pace of modern life are to blame.
Interventions that encourage physical activity and weight loss should be targeted to children younger than four years, the authors suggest. The investigators classified children who fell above the 85th percentile for weight on standardized growth charts as overweight. Children who fell above the 95th percentile were considered obese.
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