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Child obesity set before aged 5

17th December 2008

Children are gaining most of their excess weight before they start school, according to researchers.

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They say that childhood obesity is set before the age of five and compared to children in the 1980s today's youngsters are fatter, leading to calls that initiatives to prevent childhood obesity should be started before school.

The findings, in the journal Pediatrics, come in the EarlyBird Diabetes study of 233 children from birth to puberty.

It revealed that at birth, the children in the study were of similar weight to babies a quarter of a century ago but had gained more fat by puberty compared with children of the same age in the 1980s with the bulk of that gained before they started school.

Lead researcher Professor Terry Wilkin of the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, said: "When they reach the age of five the die seems to be cast, at least until the age of puberty. What is causing it is very difficult to know."

He believes diet with larger portion sizes and higher calorie food could be to blame rather than lack of exercise.

The researchers found that before an obese girl reaches school age she will have already gained 90% of her excess weight, and boys will have gained 70% of their excess weight.

The chief medical officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson acknowledged the need to "build the foundations to healthy living from a very early stage."

But he added that obesity is one of the few serious medical problems that can be reversed quickly.

 

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