Could future obesity be predicted at birth?  Some health experts think so.  And this research might help health care providers identify children who are at risk for childhood obesity before they even leave the hospital, stemming the otherwise skyrocketing numbers of kids affected by childhood obesity.


According to a new study published in PLos One, certain factors might be very good indicators of who will become obese and who will not.  They are: birth weight of the baby, body mass index of the parents, number of people in the family, whether the mother works outside the home, and whether the mother smoked during pregnancy.


The study's authors used these five factors to accurately predict obesity rates for 4,000 participants born in 1986 in Finland, the United States and Italy.


Of course, some of these factors just make logical sense.  Parents with a higher mass index are more likely to have children who are larger and thus more prone to obesity.  But what about the other factors: number of people in the family, prenatal smoking, and whether or not the mother works outside the home?  I was a little surprised not that these factors played a role in childhood obesity but that it was so large a role, whereas other factors such as parental stress did not play a role at all according to this study.


With childhood obesity rates tripling over the last three decades in the U.S., health experts and parents alike are scrambling to find tools to help kids stay healthy.  Hopefully, this research can be used to help identify babies that are risk for becoming obese so that parents and their health care providers can develop a proactive strategy for prevention.

Predicting obesity at birth
New research might help parents and health care providers work together to predict and prevent childhood obesity.