Severe obesity can be predicted using a simple body mass index (BMI) measurement as early as six months of age, a new study has found.
“BMI at 6, 12 or 18 months of age above the 85th percentile on the growth chart can accurately predict children at risk for early childhood obesity,” said Allison Smego from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in the US.
“These children have a high lifetime risk for persistent obesity and metabolic disease and should be monitored closely at a very young age,” Smego said.
Researchers studied several groups of lean and obese children under the age of six, including a group of severely obese children referred for specialised care.
All participants were selected based on BMI between the ages of 2 and 6. In all, 783 lean and 480 severely obese participants were included, researchers said.
The trajectories of BMI in children who become severely obese by six months of age began to differ from children who remain normal weight at about four months of age, they said.
“It is not currently recommended to measure BMI in children under the age of 2, but we say it should be because we now know it predicts obesity risk later,” said Smego.
“Pediatricians can identify high-risk infants with BMI above the 85th percentile and focus additional counselling and education regarding healthy lifestyles toward the families of these children. Our hope in using this tool is that we can prevent obesity in early childhood,” Smego said.