Does being overweight in infancy predicts being overweight in childhood and adolescence?

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Overweight or obese infants and children of less than 5 years got to 40 million showing a significant rise from 32 million in 1990s. The number of overweight or obese kids in the World Health Organization African Region increased from 4-9 million in 16 years. A majority of overweight infants live in developing countries. The rate of increase is higher than the numbers in the first world countries by more than 30%.

Overweight infants and younger children are likely to continue staying obese during their late childhood, adolescence and even adulthood if there is no intervention. This information might shock parent to babies who are relatively small because of most deal with nagging relatives who keep advising them to find ways of increasing the weight of their baby.

Many assume that chubby babies are a sign of proper feeding, strength and health. Additionally, the conventional thinking is that baby fat melts away when a child grows up. More and more research findings show a different outlook. Fat babies are at more risk of becoming overweighed in childhood and adolescence.

Obesity in teen life means that someone who was overweight from infancy will be obese in adulthood which increases the danger to get serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Children who are still overweight at around eight years will find it harder to reduce their weight than their thinner peers.

Researchers found out that those who got the excess weight at young children are more likely to be eaters of fewer calories during their adolescence than their slimmer peers.Despite eating fewer calories, they still could not cut down the weight they put on while young. It might seem like a suggestion that the fate of the obese at a young age is sealed and that prevention is the most efficient way of controlling this epidemic.

How to Determine If an Infant or Child Is Overweight or Obese

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement that uses height and weight to estimate the body fat of a person. Using a BMI calculator is the simplest way to calculate the BMI because doing it on your own has complications. Kids of ages 2-19 fall into one of these categories in a standard BMI chart.

Underweight: BMI that does not reach the 5th percentile

Normal weight: BMI that reaches the 5th percentile but is less than the 85th.

Overweight: BMI at 85th but below the 95th percentile.

Obese: BMI at or above the 95th percentile

Doctors use weight for length charts for kids younger than two years instead of the BMI to make a comparison of a baby’s weight with length. A child under two who falls at the 95th percentile or more is in the overweight category.

BMI, however, is not a perfect measure of the body fat as it might be misleading in a few cases. For instance, a muscular person could be having a high BMI but not fat. The reason is that extra muscle will increase body weight but not the fatness. BMI could be hard to interpret when children are in the puberty stage as they grow extremely fast at this time. BMI usually is a reliable indicator of the body fat but is not a direct measurement.

A parent should not hesitate to take a child or teenager to a pediatrician for examination if there is a reason to indicate obesity. A doctor asks questions about the eating and activity habits to derive information that helps to determine suggestions on the best way of making positive changes. Sometimes there is a need to order blood tests that will help if there is suspicion about the existence of medical problems that are likely to be the cause of obesity. The results of BMI and health diagnosis could make a pediatrician refer the child to a weight management program or a registered dietician.

Must An Overweight Infant Be Overweight In Childhood And Adolescence?

Many factors might cause an increase in weight for anyone including slim kids, but those with more fat from infancy are likely to retain the excess weight in their later years. Parents underestimate the importance in their obese children but find out when they reach the teenage age that it is not reducing.

Doctors and researchers from various parts have found that there is a link between excess weight in infancy and body weight in childhood and adolescence. For example, the average birth weight for Singaporean-Chinese babies is around 3.2 kg at 40 weeks. Doctor in Singapore agrees that the high birth weight is a danger because it causes a higher BMI in childhood and later in life. However, an individual can gain more lean mass instead of fatty tissue according to a pediatrician at Thomson Pediatric Center at the time of study Dr Yang Linqi.

This problem is not restricted to babies born with more weight but also the smaller infants like those who show signs of weak growth during pregnancy. Nonetheless, those who are born with more weight tend to grow bigger by adding more fat quickly in the early months. It leads to an increase in a central fat deposition in the babies bodies.

A group of researchers in Singapore on studying about baby weight decided also to determine if there is a link between fat babies and fat adults as well as how the pregnancy of their mothers impacted on their growth. The aim of this study on more than 1, 000 infants and children is to gain a better understanding of any relationship between birth and future weight so as for address an uptrend of the overweight children. The outcomes showed that 11 and 12-year-olds born are more likely to become overweight or obese compared to 20-year teenagers.

About four in each five slightly or severely overweight children at seven years stayed that way even after reaching 11-12 years. The figure might go down to four in some years, but it still shows overweight children are unlikely to change.

Reasons for Excess Weight in infants

1.Diet

Dr Christeller Tan who is a pediatric medicine specialist notes that a possible factor is feeding infants with formula milk increased the risk the risk of overfeeding and fast weight that causes childhood obesity. Nutrition produces a direct result in the amount of fat in a newborn baby but also depends on other maternal factors. The fatness stems from the milk feeding practices in the first six months of babies’ life.

Weaning to solid diet for most babies takes place at around the time they turn one. A habitual eating pattern emerges, and it continues throughout the childhood and even to adolescence. Much of the food that people feed their children can trigger an excess weight gain if it has much content of fast fat-filled foods, processed and packaged meals. Some blame it on their busy lifestyles that leave them with little or no time for preparing healthier meals or exercise. Some families make a mistake of taking too large portions at home or when eating out.

2.Hormonal factors

Another popular theory among researchers is that rapid growth by a child in the early years has a long-term impact on the hormonal feedback systems of their bodies. The system that regulates food intake, metabolism and weight according to Dr Tan “can affect the presence of fat deposits.” Weight gain is fastest during their first three months but gradually slows down in the first year of life. Most babies will go on average double their birth weight when they are around three to four months old, and by 12 months, the pressure will be triple. Weighty babies will grow to become fat adults through the accumulation of excess fatness at each stage of the growth years.

3.Maternal factors

Maternal weight gain, obesity, gestational diabetes, excess feeding of milk and delay in weaning are some of the elements of early life that can cause infants and children to become overweight and set a stage for more risk of adverse health status in later years of experience.

4.Genetics

Genetic factor also plays a significant role in weight matters. Then genes help to determine the type of body, the way it stores and burns fat. However, genes alone explain the recent obesity crisis. Both genes and habits passed down from one generation to another which is one of the reasons for many members of a family to struggle with excess weight gain. People from the same family are more likely to have the same eating patterns, attitude towards overweight persons and levels of physical activity.

5.Exercise and physical activity

Many kids do not engage in the adequate physical activity. Older children and adolescents should get at least an hour of moderate to great exercise every day including activities that tighten the muscle and bone and aerobics. Kids of two to five years should actively play some times every day.

6.Lifestyle

Sedentary way of life in modern time is not s preserve of adults but also the kids. Instead of playing and exercising, a high number will spend much time playing with electronic devices for a long time without moving. Children are also watching television for a long time. Those who sit in front of a screen for over 4 hours are more likely to become overweight compared to the children who watch TV for two or fewer hours. Children with TV in their bedroom are more likely to stay indoors for long and in the process become overweight regardless of their birth weight.

Dietary Precautions To Prevent Excess Weight And Obesity In Infants

Mothers from a family with a problem that has a history of gaining weight quicky should consider dietary precautions to save the baby from becoming overweight. A child already is overweight should also take these precautions that help to slow the rate of gaining weight but not weight loss.

Breast or bottle feeding a baby

  • Breastfeed exclusively because breast milk keeps babies lighter. Breastfeeding also requires some control to avoid grazing which in feeding at very frequent intervals even hourly. It can make an infant get into the habit of eating when they get upset and use food as their stress reliever.
  • An infant should not hold on to a feeding bottle as a companion whether it is day or night time. Children who carry their bottle around learn to eat frequently and using food as the comforting device.
  • Avoid pushing the baby to finish each bottle because of it possible to sense when the formula reaches her need unless there is a case of being underweight
  • Avoid enlarging the hole of the nipple in a baby bottle because the milk formula will get out too quickly.
  • Do not feed the baby with solid food until after six months of breastfeeding and four for those on milk formula. It includes using biscuits or another type of food in place of a tethering ring
  • Feed a newborn after at least two hours and three hours at 2-6 months. Do not assume sucking is a sign of hunger. The baby could need help with something else.
  • Discontinue breast or bottle feeding by one year of age as delay in weaning is a risk factor for obesity

Solid foods

  • Do not introduce sweets to an infant until 12 months of age
  • Teaching a child from your age to eat to the point of satisfaction without exceeding. Teach a child to stop eating after getting a sense of fullness even when eating alone. A child who starts turning the head, playing or closes the mouth has lost interest in feeding due to fullness.
  • Feed the child slowly without doing anything that hurries the eating pace. A child will start feeling the sensation of fullness after 15-20 minutes. A rapid eating habit that grows into adulthood has a link with obesity
  • Do not feed a child as a way of creating a distraction or an occupation. The appropriate action is to give something to play and create free time.
  • Teach an infant to use human contact but not food to relieve discomfort and stress
  • Feed a child three times a day at six months
  • Avoid using food to reward good behavior as it might create a habit of overfeeding.
  • Do not insist that a child always clears a plate or a jar of baby food.

The second phase for other toddlers starts just before they reach six years and after that their bodies will make more fat cells than the slim kids. The consequence is that overweight children will become obese adolescents with more fat than children who had normal weight when reaching six years. Parents should seek medical help if a child is overweight at age six because it is an indication of carrying excess weight in teenage and adulthood. Intervention in the physical and dietary pattern is vital for parents of overweight infants and toddlers without fear of stigmatization to prevent the risk of getting lifestyle diseases in the future.

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