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Keywords:

  • body mass index;
  • infant growth;
  • paediatric obesity

Aim

This study determines if an early life growth pattern in healthy infants can predict obesity at age 5.

Methods

Randomly selected from all healthy children born from 1997 to 2001 in a Midwestern US Health Maintenance Organization; growth patterns from birth to 5 years were described for children who were categorised by obesity classification at 5 years into normal weight (n = 61), overweight (n = 47), obese (n = 41) and morbidly obese (n = 72) cohorts using World Health Organization body mass index (BMI) criteria. A retrospective longitudinal analysis based on weighted least squares was performed on BMI by age (1 week; 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months; and 2, 3, 4 and 5 years). Graphs of the longitudinal repeated measures analysis of variance of means allowed identification of the earliest significant divergence of a cohort's average BMI pattern from other cohorts' patterns.

Results

Distinctions in growth patterns and BMIs were evident before 1-year post-birth. Children who were obese or morbidly obese at 5 years demonstrated a BMI pattern that differed from children who were normal weight at 5 years.

Conclusions

Identifying obesity development in early life may assist with prevention of later obesity. The results merit future study. An early life BMI growth pattern is clinically important because it permits discrimination of those who do and do not fit a normal weight pattern, guiding individualised interventions in the first year of life while precursors of later health are still forming.