Researchers have created a simple formula which can predict a baby’s chance of being obese from as early as birth. Scientists hope it will help identify babies at risk, since obesity prevention is better than cure.
Obesity in children is rising, with 17% of boys and 15% of girls in England thought to be obese. A recent study published in the Lancet Journal warned that almost half of British men and 4 in 10 women could be clinically obese within 20 years, and the rising figure is estimated to cost the NHS an extra £2 billion a year.
Now, researchers from Imperial College London have created a formula that can be used to identify babies at risk of obesity later in life. Professor Philippe Froguel led the study said that prevention was the best strategy because once obese, a child can find it difficult to lose weight.
The team looked at 4,032 Finnish children born in 1986 and data from two further studies of 1,503 Italian children and 1,032 US children.
Writing in the journal PLoS One, they looked at several known risk factors for obesity to produce the formula. It is the first time these risks have been combined together in this way. Predictors in the calculation include:
- Child’s birth weight
- The body mass index of the parents
- How many people are in the household
- The professional status of the mother
- Whether the mother smoked during pregnancy
It has been thought that genetic factors have an impact on adult weight problems. However, only around one in 10 cases of obesity are as the result of a genetic mutation.
This test takes very little time, it doesn't require any lab tests and it doesn't cost anything, so the researchers are hopeful it could be used effectively by the NHS in the future. The calculator is available at the following link: http://files-good.ibl.fr/childhood-obesity
Professor Philippe Froguel from Imperial College London, who led the study, said: "The equation is based on data everyone can obtain from a new-born, and we found it can predict around 80% of obese children.
"Unfortunately, public prevention campaigns have been rather ineffective at preventing obesity in school-age children. Teaching parents about the dangers of overfeeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective.
"The message is simple. All at-risk children should be identified, monitored and given good advice, but this costs money."
Traditionally, weight loss surgery has not been covered by private health insurance. However, from January 2013 PruHealth members on a group scheme could have access to private gastric bypasses.
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