Obesity roots may start before kindergarten

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A new report suggests that children who are overweight or obese by the time they enter kindergarten have a high likelihood of staying that way as they grow older. Looking at more than 7,700 children over a nine-year-period, the Emory University study found that children who started kindergarten overweight had about four times the risk of becoming obese by eighth grade as their normal-weight peers.

In an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-author Steven Gortmaker, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center (HPRC) and professor of the practice of health sociology at the School, said that the findings point to the importance of instituting “wide-reaching, cost-effective policy and programmatic changes aimed at improving nutrition and physical activity among broad populations of children if we are to reduce early childhood weight gain and the risk of incident obesity throughout childhood.”

On the bright side, Gortmaker told the New York Times, a number of studies have shown that it is possible to stop or reverse excess weight gain in children. And young children can move from overweight to normal weight by losing just a few pounds, whereas for adults to do so could mean having to lose a significant amount of weight—20 to 30 pounds or even 40 to 50 pounds, according to Gortmaker.

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