Kids Unlikely to Outgrow 'Baby Fat'
Overweight 5-year-olds face 4 times the risk of teen obesity, new research finds
Although the researchers don't know for sure why the annual incidence of kids becoming obese dropped as kids got older, Cunningham theorized, "the kids who were at high risk already became obese at younger ages."
She added, "Obesity is a complex, multi-faceted issue. Our findings show that focusing on young kids is important. Many of the children were at an unhealthy weight before school. Preferences and tastes may be set in early years, so that may be one of the good places to intervene."
"Parents need to stay focused on maintaining healthy weight and increasing activity." she noted. "At young ages, the focus shouldn't be on weight loss."
One expert noted that efforts should start even earlier.
"When kids are coming into kindergarten overweight or obese, it puts them on an unhealthy track," said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives in the Office of Community and Public Health at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.
Copperman added that if children enter kindergarten overweight or obese, the problem began earlier, often at birth with a high birth weight.
Prevention efforts should really "take a step back and start looking at women of child-bearing age. We should promote health and healthy behaviors to them because having a baby who's born at a healthy weight helps make that baby healthy throughout life. It may also help a woman work on bad habits before her child comes," she said.
Copperman added that parents need to reinforce healthy lifestyle messages to help keep their child at a healthy weight. She recommended the American Academy of Pediatrics' 5210 program. It calls for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, no more than 2 hours of screen time a day, at least 1 hour of physical activity each day and zero sugar-sweetened beverages.
"Parents need to remember that they're modeling behaviors for their children, even at very young ages. It's not easy work, and public health interventions need to support parents," she added.