Should a baby be put on a diet? A new study seems to think so. In fact, a team of U.S. doctors has urged that obesity screening start in the cradle after a study showed that half of U.S. children with weight problems became overweight before age 2.

According to the study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the "critical period for preventing childhood obesity" is "the first two years of life and for many by 3 months of age." 

How did the researchers come to these conclusions? They looked at 480 medical records for patients between the ages of 2 and 20 at two medical practices in Virginia. The intent of the study was to pinpoint the "tipping point" for weigh issues in children. According to the study, the median age for when the children in the study became overweight was 22 months. One quarter of the children in the study reached their overweight "tipping point" at or before 5 months of age.

As a result, the researchers recommend that health care providers begin screening for excessive weight gain "as early as possible" to prevent childhood obesity, rather than trying to reverse a weight problem that has "spiralled out of control." 

I have read volumes of studies and written plenty of posts about preventing childhood obesity. But I have to admit that this particular study and the conclusions it draws make me a little nervous. For starters, I have personally known dozens of "chubby" babies who naturally grew into healthy, fit toddlers, preschoolers and teens. Babies grow at different rates. And just because overweight adults may have been overweight as babies, does not automatically mean that all overweight babies will grow up to become overweight adults.  

My second concern here is the tendency for parents and health care experts to overreact to these kinds of studies and take their recommendations to the extreme. Childhood obesity is a hot topic right now, with Michelle Obama leading the charge to tackle this issue. But the way to prevent childhood obesity is to improve school lunches, give children more access to nature and other places to exercise, and avoid overly processed foods — not by putting babies on a diet. Babies need fat, and they should be "fat." This fat is what their brains use to grow and develop.  

The answer lies in counseling parents and children about the importance of nutrition and exercise ... not scaring them into thinking that their chubby babies will grow up to be obese adults.

Do you agree?

MNN homepage photo: joliphoto/iStockphoto

Should your baby be on a diet?
Health experts urge obesity prevention for babies after study shows obesity begins before age 2.