Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Babies on obesity path? New sign may offer answer


CHICAGO (AP) — Researchers say there's a new way to tell if infants are likely to become obese later on: Check to see if they've passed two key milestones on doctors' growth charts by age 2.

Babies who grew that quickly face double the risk of being obese at age 5, compared with peers who grew more slowly, their study found. Rapid growers were also more likely to be obese at age 10, and infants whose chart numbers climbed that much during their first 6 months faced the greatest risks.

That kind of rapid growth should be a red flag to doctors, and a sign to parents that babies might be overfed or spending too much time in strollers and not enough crawling around, said pediatrician Dr. Elsie Taveras, the study's lead author and an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School.

Contrary to the idea that chubby babies are the picture of health, the study bolsters evidence that "bigger is not better" in infants, she said.

But skeptics say not so fast. Babies often grow in spurts and flagging the speediest growers could lead to putting infants on diets — a bad idea that could backfire in the long run, said Dr. Michelle Lampl, director of Emory University's Center for the Study of Human Health.

"It reads like a very handy rule and sounds like it would be very useful — and that's my concern," Lampl said. The guide would be easy to use to justify feeding infants less and to unfairly label them as fat. It could also prompt feeding patterns that could lead to obesity later, she said.

Lampl noted that many infants studied crossed at least two key points on growth charts; yet only 12 percent were obese at age 5 and slightly more at age 10. Nationally, about 10 percent of preschool-aged children are obese, versus about 19 percent of those aged 6 to 11.

Lampl and Edward Frongillo, an infant growth specialist at the University of South Carolina, voiced concern in an editorial accompanying the study in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, released online Monday. They argue that more research is needed to confirm whether the study's recommendation is really a useful way to flag infants for obesity. Read More...

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